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IT IS not my purpose in this volume to present a comprehensive 
or complete study — either biographical or critical — of John 
Dryden and his work. My investigation has been limited to two 
closely related subjects: Dryden's characteristic thought and its 
background in the seventeenth century. Much of this background 
is unfamiliar to students of literature, and some of it is inacces- 
sible except in the more important libraries of Europe; I have 
therefore felt compelled to describe and illustrate it in some detail. 
If any readers of this volume should be interested in Geistesge- 
schichte, they will perhaps more readily approve of this extensive 
study of Dryden's intellectual milieu; others, whose interest in 
this volume will depend exclusively on the light it throws on Dry- 
den, I must beg to read on trustfully and with patience; when 
they come to the end they will, I hope, feel rewarded for their toil. 

As I have had to include the results of much *' spade-work," 
my study has acquired a monographic character. I have accord- 
ingly adopted a method predominantly historical, with only some 
tentative suggestions as to what bearing my findings might have 
upon the interpretation and evaluation of Dryden's work as liter- 
ature. Biographical questions also enter the discussion casually 
from time to time. But, in general, it has been my main concern 
here to present a series of facts as I see them; if my statement of 
them wins acceptance, it will then be time to say more regarding 
their consequences and implications. 

I am happy to record my obligations to the John Simon Gug- 
genheim Foundation for a fellowship in 1929-30, which, with a 
sabbatical leave granted by the University of Michigan the same 
year, made possible the collection of material for this study. My 
colleague. Professor Louis A. Strauss, has read my work in manu- 
script and given me most helpful comment. Professor George 
Boas, of The Johns Hopkins University, very kindly helped me 

iv Preface 

expunge some errors in the second chapter, and Father J. J. Daly, 
S.J., of the University of Detroit, did me a similar service with 
the fourth; but I fear neither of these friendly critics will be en- 
tirely satisfied with what I have let stand. The third chapter, 
which appeared originally in Modern Philology for May, 1928, is 
reprinted, with some revisions and additions, with the kind per- 
mission of the editors. 

Finally, it is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. 
Eugene S. McCartney, editor of the University of Michigan Pub- 
lications, for his helpful and searching criticism of my manuscript. 



I Introduction 3 

i Dryden's character ii His conception of the poet's intellectual 
qualifications iii His skeptical temper and thought 

II The Traditions of Skepticism 16 

i Greek ii Medieval and Christian iii The sixteenth century: Mon- 
taigne iv The seventeenth century: Pascal v The seventeenth 
century: Browne 

III The Crisis of the New Science 47 

i The revival of materialism ii Hobbes iii The recourse to Pyr- 
rhonism iv Dryden and Hobbes v Dryden and the Royal Society . 

IV Roman Catholic Apologetics in England ... 73 

i Fideistic developments up to 1660 ii Dissemination of fideism, 
1660-88 iii Simon's Critical History of the Old Testament iv Dry- 
den's supposed deism v The preparation for the poems on religion: 
Dryden's reading vi The philosophical content of the poems on 

V Toryism 130 

i I^ke2ticism and cqjniservjitism ii Hobbes and Filmer iii Dryden's 
view of whiggism iv Dryden's formulation of toryism 

VI Conclusion 151 

Appendix A: The Bibliography of Roman Catholic 
Controversy in England in the Seventeenth 
Century 155 

Appendix B: Justel's Letters to Henry Compton, 

Bishop of London 156 

Appendix C: The Two Issues of the English Transla- 
tion of Father Simon's Critical History of the Old 
Testament 158 

Appendix D: English Catholic Opinion in the Reign 

of James II 160 

Index 181 


Unless otherwise indicated, all references to Dryden are to the most nearly com- 
plete edition available, by Sir Walter Scott and George Saintsbury (1882-93); in 
some cases I have preferred to quote the poetry from the edition by John Sargeaunt 
(1910) and the essays from the edition by W. P. Ker (19CX)), because of the superi- 
ority of these editions textually. 





Dryden's character ii His conception of the poet's intellectual 
qualifications iii His skeptical temper and thought 

DRYDEN has received generous recognition for his stylistic 
achievement, for the way in which he has put the stamp of 
his genius upon the language of England, in both prose and poetry. 
Dr. Johnson's famous dictum that **by him we were taught sapere 
et fari, to think naturally and express forcibly," appears to be also 
the standard critical opinion of our own day. Thus Mr. Bonamy 
Dobree, in an essay occasioned by the tercentenary of Dryden's 
birth, states that the *'chief work" of his **long, patiently arduous 
life consisted in creating a language fit for civilized Englishmen to 
use."^ And Mr. T. S. Eliot has expressed the opinion that 'St is 
hardly too much to say that Dryden found the English speechless, 
and he gave them speech; and they accordingly acknowledged 
their master; the language which we can refine, enrich, distort or 
corrupt as we may, but which we cannot do without. No one, in 
the whole history of English literature, has dominated that liter- 
ature so long, or so completely. And even in the nineteenth cen- 
tury the language was still the language of Dryden, as it is to-day." ^ 
If this criticism errs, it is on the side of generosity, and it is possible 
that some of the credit here given to Dryden may in the future be 
distributed more equitably among his contemporaries and prede- 

But the content of Dryden's work, his cast of mind, and his 
intellectual equipment have received little attention except in dis- 
paragement. Mr. Allan Lubbock, for instance, has recently as- 
serted that Dryden's "whole body of work can be explained as the 

^ Variety of Ways (Oxford, 1932), p. 9. 
2 John Dryden (New York, 1932), p. 24. 


4 The Milieu of John Dryden 

child of a deep enthusiasm, which made him attach but Httle im- 
portance to rehgion or poHtics, or even to many aspects of Hterature 
itself. What excluded everything else was the love of expression 
for its own sake. He devoted himself therefore to increasing the 
efficiency of his instruments.'*^ That is to say, Dryden was an 
expert craftsman with an uninteresting mind. But this is the 
judgment of the twentieth century; readers in the past have been 
able to say more for Dryden. Roscommon found weighty things 
in Religio Laid: 

Let free, impartial men from Dryden learn 
Mysterious secrets of a high concern, 
And weighty truths, sohd convincing sense, 
Explained by unaffected eloquence.* 

Or, if Roscommon's praise is ruled out as the partiality of a friend, 

there is the passage in Walter Savage Landor's verse letter to 


Our course by Milton's light was sped, 

And Shakespeare shining over head: 

Chatting on deck was Dryden too, 

The Bacon of the rhyming crew; 

None ever crost our mystic sea 

More richly stored with thought than he; 

Tho' never tender nor sublime, 

He wrestles with and conquers Time.^ 

We need not infer from these lines that Dryden should, in Landor's 
judgment, be placed among the great philosophical poets, with 
Lucretius and Dante, with whom he assuredly does not belong. 
But the confession of so discerning a reader as Landor may remind 
us that there are stores of thought in Dryden's work which should 
not be ignored in an explanation and appraisal of his literary 
achievement. There is, indeed, something anomalous in a criticism 
which concerns itself with natural thinking and forcible expression 
without deigning to note what is thought and expressed. Such 
criticism is either sophistical itself, or applicable only to sophists. 
And the unpleasant assumption underlies much of the criticism, 
much even of the praise, of Dryden, that he was a sophist and to 
be dealt with accordingly; that, with the possible exception of some 

' The Character of John Dryden, Hogarth Essays (London, 1925), p. 6. 
* Dryden, Works X, 34. ' Landor, Works (London, 1853), H, 667. 

Introduction 5 

of his literary criticism, his mind was neither sincere nor significant 
nor interesting. 

This depreciation of Dryden's mind is in large measure due to 
certain preconceptions — long current — regarding his moral and 
intellectual character, which must be dealt with briefly before we 
enter upon the proper subject of this study. There are at least 
three such common preconceptions which the student encounters 
as obstacles in his approach to Dryden: that Dryden was a hire- 
ling, whose political and religious affiliations were determined by 
bribes and pensions; that in his most serious work he never rose 
intellectually above the level of ephemeral journalism; and that 
the inconsistencies and contradictions with which his work abounds 
are conclusive evidence of a lack of intellectual character and 

Dryden's pensions as Poet Laureate and Historiographer Royal 
were constantly harped upon in his own time by hostile pamphlet- 
eers, and they have since then inspired suspicion in many of his 
biographers and critics — with the exceptions of Malone, Scott, and 
Saintsbury. Very little was known about them, but such fragmen- 
tary information as came to light from time to time was always 
given the most sinister interpretation. The full facts are now in 
print,^ and many of these insinuations can be proved gratuitous. 
The time has come when it is possible to reconsider the question of 
Dryden's character, both intellectual and moral, with a more open 
and receptive mind.*^ 

The poet should be heard in his own defense; he has imp'ortant 
testimony to give regarding the moral and intellectual seriousness 
of his nature. Perhaps he replied too seldom to the contemporary 
pamphleteers who vilified him. *' Anything, though never so little," 
he wrote in his old age, *' which a man speaks of himself, in my 

* In the Calendar of Treasury Books for the reigns of Charles II and James II. 

"^ The present author has attempted two studies in this direction: "Political 
Aspects of Dryden's Amboyna and The Spanish Fryar," Essays and Studies in 
English and Comparative Literature, in University of Michigan Publications, Lan- 
guage and Literature, VIII (1932), 1 19-132; and "Notes on John Dryden's Pen- 
sion," Modern Philology, XXX (1933), 267-274. 

6 The Milieu of John Dryden 

opinion is still too much."^ He had too much dignity to be ego- 
tistically voluble, but he often spoke incidentally about his work 
and himself with admirable candor, without either false modesty 
or false pride. These passages in his writings merit some attention 
from any critic who engages to explain the poet's personality. 

It would appear from some of them that Dryden regarded him- 
self as a man of greater moral dignity than tradition since his time 
has allowed him. Two passages may suffice to illustrate this point. 
In A Discourse concerning the Original and Progress of Satire (1693), 
addressed to the Earl of Dorset, he questions the legitimacy of the 
lampoon, "a dangerous sort of weapon, and for the most part un- 
lawful." But possibly, he continues, we may be permitted to use 
it in revenge, 

. . . when we have been affronted in the same nature, or have been 
any ways notoriously abused, and can make ourselves no other 
reparation. And yet we know, that, in Christian charity, all 
oflFences are to be forgiven, as we expect the like pardon for those 
which we daily commit against Almighty God. And this con- 
sideration has often made me tremble when I was saying our 
Saviour's prayer; for the plain condition of the forgiveness which 
we beg is the pardoning of others the offences which they have 
done to us; for which reason I have many times avoided the com- 
mission of that fault, even when I have been notoriously provoked. 
Let not this, my Lord, pass for vanity in me; for it is truth. More 
libels have been written against me, than almost any man now 
living; and I had reason on my side, to have defended my own 
innocence. I speak not of my poetry, which I have wholly given 
up to the critics: let them use it as they please: posterity, per- 
haps, may be more favourable to me; for interest and passion will 
lie buried in another age, and partiality and prejudice be forgotten. 
I speak of my morals, which have been sufficiently aspersed: that 
only sort of reputation ought to be dear to every honest man, and 
is to me. But let the world witness for me, that I have been often 
wanting to myself in that particular; I have seldom answered any 
scurrilous lampoon, when it was in my power to have exposed my 
enemies: and, being naturally vindicative, have suffered in silence, 
and possessed my soul in quiet.* 

Dryden quite evidently was not afraid in his own time to lay public 
claim to some of the nobler virtues. 

8 Essays, ed. W. P. Ker (Oxford, 19CX)), II, 80. » Ibid., pp. 79-80 

Introduction 7 

In our second passage Dryden defends his sincerity in the 
matter of party loyalty. Accused as he was of having been hired 
to write The Duke of Guise, he replied in his Vindication (1683): 

... If I am a mercenary scribbler, the Lords Commissioners of the 
Treasury best know: I am sure, they have found me no importu- 
nate solicitor; for I know myself, I deserved little, and, therefore, 
have never desired much. I return that slander, with just disdain, 
on my accusers: it is for men who have ill consciences to suspect 
others; I am resolved to stand or fall with the cause of my God, 
my king, and country; never to trouble myself for any railing as- 
persions, which I have not deserved; and to leave it as a portion 
to my children, — that they had a father who durst do his duty, 
and was neither covetous nor mercenary. ^*^ 

Such a reply Dryden's Whig enemies presumably regarded as sheer 
effrontery and hypocrisy; but the facts regarding his pension bear 
him out. From 1677 to 1684 he received annually only one half of 
his stipulated pension; and the payments were neither hastened 
nor increased on account of his political services. There is no 
evidence that the government offered him any inducement to write 
on politics. We may reasonably assume that he wrote as he did 
because he believed that his own security as an Englishman along 
with that of the nation depended on the defeat of the Whigs. In 
this spirit, certainly, he addressed the Earl of Rochester in the 
dedication to The Duke of Guise (1683): 

... If ever this excellent government, so well established by the 
wisdom of our forefathers, and so much shaken by the folly of this 
age, shall recover its ancient splendour, posterity cannot be so un- 
grateful as to forget those who, in the worst of times, have stood 
undaunted by their king and country, and, for the safeguard of 
both, have exposed themselves to the malice of false patriots, and 
the madness of a headstrong rabble. But since this glorious work 
is yet unfinished, and though we have reason to hope well of the 
success, yet the event depends on the unsearchable providence of 
Almighty God, it is no time to raise trophies, while the victory is 
in dispute; but every man, by your example, to contribute what 
is in his power to maintain so just a cause, on which depends the 
future settlement and prosperity of three nations. ^^ 

Rochester, as first lord of the Treasury, was in a position to know 
to what degree Dryden's Tory zeal was mercenary; if Rochester 

w Works, VII, 173-174- " Ihid., p. 16. 

8 The Milieu of John Dryden 

thought the poet was to be purchased for a price, that price was 
merely the regular payment of one half of the annual pension of 
the Laureate. ^2 Mercenary men know better how to reap their 
reward. Everything points rather to Dryden's deep devotion and 
dignified loyalty to the Tory cause, which he identified with the 
best interests of his king and his country. 


It would seem difficult enough for any man, in such an unsettled 
age as the seventeenth century in England, to have remained in- 
different to the political and religious embroilments of his age. But 
Dryden was first of all a poet, and he considered it fatal for a poet 
to cut himself oflF from the intellectual life of his age and nation. 
His statement of the qualifications necessary for the practice of 
poetry should be a fair indication of the nature of his own intellec- 
tual regimen. 

Dryden's career as a man of letters turned out vastly different 
from what he wished it. His creative energy was diverted from 
his great ambition, to write an epic, and dissipated in a multitude 
of miscellaneous tasks. If we must find a flaw in his character, 
this is perhaps the great and serious one, that, in spite of his love for 
literature and his desire for fame in it, he was not heroic enough 
to achieve what he himself, correctly or incorrectly, thought should 
be his greatest work. But there can be no question of his deep 
desire to write an epic, or of his considered preparation for that 
task. It was a task which he understood to involve extensive 
learning and ripe wisdom as well as genius. In the realm of literary 
theory Dryden was still, in some respects, in the afterglow of the 
Renaissance; he considered the great epic the supreme achieve- 
ment of the mind of man. The epic poet, as any reader of Sidney 

^2 Dryden's famous undated letter to Rochester, appealing for "half a year of 
my salary" or "some small employment . . . either in the Customs, or in the Appeals 
of the Excise, or some other way," apparently brought him no results. The John 
Dryden who was appointed, on December 17, 1683, as Collector of Customs in the 
port of London, was not the poet: see Charles E. Ward, "Was John Dryden Collec- 
tor of Customs?" Modern Language Notes, XLVII (1932), 246-249, and Calendar 
of Treasury Books, 1689-1692, p. 1886. It should be observed also that Dryden's 
letter to Rochester appears to have been an isolated appeal, made only in circum- 
stances of dire extremity. 

Introduction 9 

and Spenser would know, must be a legislator, a moralist, a philoso- 
pher; as Sidney said, he is the monarch of all sciences. In this old 
humanistic tradition of the Renaissance, which required the man 
of genius to acquire learning and judgment, Dryden had been 
educated, and he was never able to unlearn this lesson. 

"I am of opinion," he said in the Defence of an Essay of Dra- 
matic Poesy (1668), "that they cannot be good poets, who are not 
accustomed to argue well. False reasonings and colours of speech 
are the certain marks of one who does not understand the stage; 
for moral truth is the mistress of the poet as much as of the philoso- 
pher; Poesy must resemble natural truth, but it must be ethical." ^^ 
In 1674 ^^ excluded Settle from the communion of orthodox and 
true poets, because he lacked learning, because he was a sottish 
*'mere poet": 

Fanciful poetry and music, used with moderation, are good; 
but men who are wholly given over to either of them, are commonly 
as full of whimsies as diseased and splenetic men can be. Their 
heads are continually hot, and they have the same elevation of 
fancy sober, which men of sense have when they drink. So wine 
used moderately does not take away the judgment, but used con- 
tinually, debauches men's understandings, and turns them into 
sots, making their heads continually hot by accident, as the others 
are by nature; so, mere poets and mere musicians are as sottish 
as mere drunkards are, who live in a continual mist, without seeing 
or judging any thing clearly. 

A man should be learned in several sciences, and should have a 
reasonable, philosophical, and in some measure a mathematical 
head, to be a complete and excellent poet; and besides this, should 
have experience in all sorts of humours and manners of men; 
should be thoroughly skilled in conversation, and should have a 
great knowledge of mankind in general. Mr. Settle having never 
studied any sort of learning but poetry, and that but slenderly, as 
you may find by his writings, and having besides no other ad- 
vantages, must make very lame work on't; he himself declares, he 
neither reads, nor cares for conversation; so that he would per- 
suade us he is a kind of fanatic in poetry, and has a light within 
him, and writes by an inspiration; which (like that of the heathen 
prophets) a man must have no sense of his own when he receives; 
and no doubt he would be thought inspired, and would be reverenced 
extremely in the country where Santons are worshipped. ^^ 

13 Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, I, 121. " Works, XV, 406-407. 

lo The Milieu of John Dry den 

These were not mere transient principles, professed only for the 
castigation of Settle. '*It requires Philosophy/' he wrote in 1677, 
" as well as Poetry, to sound the depth of all the passions." ^^ And in 
1679, referring to the necessity for a dramatist or an epic poet to 
know the ''manners" of men, this knowledge, he said, is ''to be 
gathered from the several virtues, vices, or passions, and many 
other commonplaces, which a poet must be supposed to have learned 
from natural Philosophy, Ethics, and History; of all which, who- 
soever is ignorant, does not deserve the name of poet." ^® In 1693 he 
described the qualifications of the poet who "may build a nobler, 
a more beautiful and more perfect poem, than any yet extant since 
the Ancients": 

. . . a man, who, being conversant in the philosophy of Plato, as it 
is now accommodated to Christian use, (for, as Virgil gives us to 
understand by his example, that is the only proper, of all others, 
for an epic poem,) who, to his natural endowments, of a large in- 
vention, a ripe judgment, and a strong memory, has joined the 
knowledge of the liberal arts and sciences, and particularly moral 
philosophy, the mathematics, geography, and history, and with all 
these qualifications is born a poet; knows, and can practise the 
variety of numbers, and is master of the language in which he 
writes. ^^ 

In an epic poet, he says a few pages on, "one who is worthy of that 
name, besides an universal genius, is required universal learning." ^^ 
Such were the comprehensive qualifications of an epic poet, as 
Dryden understood them in an age before specialization. 

Not that Dryden was a great scholar comparable to Gray or 
Milton, or that he set himself the hard task of keeping up with 
all the mathematical discoveries of the seventeenth century; what 
is contended here is that Dryden had a generous conception of the 
learning necessary to a poet and that his intellectual interests, thus 
closely integrated to his calling, were both wide and genuine. 
"Every page," said Johnson, who surmised that Dryden acquired 
his extensive knowledge rather from conversation than from read- 
ing, "every page discovers a mind very widely acquainted both 
with art and nature, and in full possession of great stores of in- 

^ Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, I, 183. " Ihid., p. 214. 

" Ibid.y II, 36. " Ibid., p. 43. 

Introduction 1 1 

tellectual wealth." ^^ We must not be deluded by the charming 
small talk of the study which Dryden so often gives us — the care- 
ful balancing of the advantages and disadvantages of rhyme, the 
problem of the comic subplot, the synaloephas of Chapman*s 
Homer, the "turns" of Mr. Waller and Sir John Denham to which 
Sir George Mackenzie had called his attention, the examination of 
tropes and figures and catachreses — we must not be deluded into 
supposing that his vital intellectual, or even artistic, interests were 
narrowly confined to matters of style and language. Dryden said 
often enough that style is more than technique, that "it must pro- 
ceed from a genius, and a particular way of thinking"; his dis- 
cussions of the styles of Lucretius, Horace, Juvenal, and Persius, 
touching as they do on the lives, social and political circumstances, 
personal characteristics, and philosophical tenets of these authors, 
are illustrative of both his theory and practice; and they might 
well be taken as models for appreciations of the style of Dryden 
himself. For Dryden believed that the man of letters must study 
many subjects besides style. He not only knew his belles letires, but 
ranged extensively among the most unliterary books; he has a 
wealth of quotation, allusion, and anecdote, much of it from ob- 
scure sources as yet untraced by any editor of his work. To de- 
scribe such a man as a mere polisher of phrases, and devoid of 
wide-ranging and serious intellectual interests, is a grave error in 
criticism; it is to give the reader exactly the wrong clue. 


Dr. Johnson, who was by temperament and reading one of the 
best qualified critics Dryden has ever had, has remarked that "his 
compositions are the effects of a vigorous genius operating upon 
large materials." ^"^ It is the purpose of this study to inquire into 
the intellectual traits of that genius, and into the nature of the 
materials upon which it operated. It is our purpose to discover to 
what extent and in what ways Dryden was intellectually repre- 
sentative of his age; to ascertain what his essential temperament 
was, and to find what currents of thought in his time were es- 

19 Lives of Poets, ed. Birkbeck Hill (1905), I, 417. » Ibid., p. 457. 

12 The Milieu of John Dry den 

pecially congenial to him; in short, whether he belonged to any 
significant intellectual milieu. 

Changeableness is beyond dispute one of the dominant charac- 
teristics of his mind. But we must be careful not to conclude 
hastily that this observation is in itself a moral appraisal; it may 
be profitable to adopt a more neutral procedure than the time- 
worn one of dwelling on Dryden's inconsistencies in criticism, 
religion, and politics, and explaining them as prudential accommo- 
dations to changing fashions. We shall better understand the 
nature of his mind if, to begin with, we consider some less impor- 
tant episode, such as cannot by any chance raise suspicions of a 
sordid motive. A passage in the dedication to Aureng-Zebe (1676) 
may serve. Some of the ladies had criticized as unnatural the con- 
duct of Indamora and Melesinda in the last act. The problem was 
not one of vast importance, but Dryden gallantly consented to 
examine their representations: 

That which was not pleasing to some of the fair ladies in the 
last act of it, as I dare not vindicate, so neither can I wholly con- 
demn, till I find more reason for their censures. ... I have made 
my Melesinda in opposition to Nourmahal, a woman passionately 
loving of her husband, patient of injuries and contempt, and con- 
stant in her kindness, to the last; and in that, perhaps, I may have 
erred, because it is not a virtue much in use. Those Indian wives 
are loving fools, and may do well to keep themselves in their own 
country, or, at least, to keep company with the Arrias and Portias 
of old Rome: Some of our ladies know better things. But, it may 
be, I am partial to my own writings; yet I have laboured as much 
as any man, to divest myself of the self-opinion of an author; and 
am too well satisfied of my own weakness, to be pleased with any- 
thing I have written. But, on the other side, my reason tells me, 
that, in probability, what I have seriously and long considered 
may be as likely to be just and natural, as what an ordinary judge 
(if there be any such among those ladies) will think fit, in a tran- 
sient presentation, to be placed in the room of that which they 
condemn. The most judicious writer is sometimes mistaken, after 
all his care; but the hasty critic, who judges on a view, is full as 
liable to be deceived. Let him first consider all the arguments, 
which the author had, to write this, or to design the other, before 
he arraigns him of a fault; and then, perhaps, on second thoughts, 
he will find his reason oblige him to revoke his censure. Yet, after 
all, I will not be too positive. Homo sum, humani a me nihil 

Introduction 1 3 

alienum puto. As I am a man, I must be changeable: and some- 
times the gravest of us all are so, even upon ridiculous accidents. 
Our minds are perpetually wrought on by the temperament of our 
bodies; which makes me suspect, they are nearer allied, than either 
our philosophers or school-divines will allow them to be. I have 
observed, says Montaigne, that when the body is out of order, its 
companion is seldom at his ease. An ill dream, or a cloudy day, 
has power to change this wretched creature, who is so proud of a 
reasonable soul, and make him think what he thought not yes- 
terday. And Homer was of this opinion, as Cicero is pleased to 
translate him for us — 

Tales sunt homlnum mentes, quali pater ipse 
Jupiter auctifera lustravit lampade terras. 

Or, as the same author, in his **Tusculan Questions," speaks, with 
more modesty than usual, of himself: Nos in diem vivimus; quod- 
cunque animos nostras probabilitate percussity id dicimus. It is not 
therefore impossible, but that I may alter the conclusion of my 
play, to restore myself into the good graces of my fair critics; and 
your lordship,^^ who is so well with them, may do me the office of a 
friend and patron, to intercede with them on my promise of 

Were ever fair ladies so perplexed by banter? And could anything 
be more characteristic of Dryden.? 

But, in small affairs as in great, Dryden's hesitancy is some- 
thing more positive than indecision; it is less a weakness of will 
than a richness and suppleness of intellect. Dryden dearly loved a 
debate; he ornamented his plays with stretches of resonant argu- 
ment, and his genius sustained both sides with such impartiality 
that we are often puzzled which is intended to receive the palm of 
victory. There are those who regard as the final test of an idea 
its coherent relation within a unified system. Dryden preferred 
to see it tested in a vigorous combat with its opposite, each side 
putting forth its utmost force. He wrote, accordingly, not treatises, 
but essays and dialogues. Three of his most important works are 
in the latter form, in spite of the fact that in each case Dryden 
had a partisan interest. In An Essay of Dramatic Poesy Neander 
is his spokesman; but the ideas of Neander are presented with no 
more force and art than those of the other three interlocutors. 

" The Earl of Mulgrave. ^^ Works, V, 197-200. 

14 The Milieu of John Dry den 

Political ideas are expressed in Absalom and Achitophd very largely 
by discussion and argument, and no one can say that the Whiggism 
there presented, whatever its morality may be, is intellectually 
contemptible. The plan of The Hind and the Panther permitted 
of a vigorous recapitulation of the arguments used on both Catholic 
and Anglican sides in the enormous pamphlet war of the time. 
And one might add that Religio Laid, even though not a debate, 
is a balancing of conflicting ideas, and that, Protestant though it 
be, it gives a clear and forceful expression of the main Catholic 
criticism of the Protestant doctrines regarding religious authority. 
As Dr. Johnson has observed, Dryden's mind was "always curious, 
always active." His apparent indecision is evidence, not of weak- 
ness, but of strength, of energy, of a versatile understanding. It is 
his distinction and his virtue. 

This is only to speak after Dryden. He has himself told us that 
his temper was the opposite of the dogmatic and the magisterial, 
the traits of Hobbes and Lucretius, from whom he carefully dis- 
tinguished himself in the Preface to Sylvae (1685): 

If I am not mistaken, the distinguishing character of Lucretius 
(I mean of his soul and genius) is a certain kind of noble pride, and 
positive assertion of his opinions. He is everywhere confident of 
his own reason, and assuming an absolute command, not only over 
his vulgar reader, but even his patron Memmius. . . . These are 
the considerations, which I had of that author, before I attempted 
to translate some parts of him. And accordingly I laid by my 
natural diffidence and scepticism for a while, to take up that dog- 
matical way of his, which, as I said, is so much his character, as to 
make him that individual poet." ^ 

It would be easy to multiply passages to show that Dryden under- 
stood the skeptical and diffident nature of his own mind. But 
more than that, Dryden recognized that his temperament found 
support and expression in a philosophy; he has repeatedly claimed 
kinship with skeptical tendencies in ancient and modern thought. 
Regarding the Essay of Dramatic Poesy he declared that 

. . . my whole discourse was sceptical, according to that way of 
reasoning which was used by Socrates, Plato, and all the Academ- 
ics of old, which Tully and the best of the Ancients followed, and 

" Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, I, 259-260. 

Introduction 15 

which is imitated by the modest inquisitions of the Royal Society. 
That it is so, not only the name will show, which is an Essay^ but 
the frame and composition of the work. You see it is a dialogue 
sustained by persons of several opinions, all of them left doubtful, 
to be determined by the readers in general.^'^ 

Such was his defense of the Essay in 1668. In his Preface to An 
Evenings Love (1671) he asked, "Why should there be any Ipse 
dixit in our poetry, any more than there is in our philosophy?'* 
Finally, in the Preface to Religio Laid (1682) he tells us explicitly 
that he was "naturally inclined to skepticism in philosophy." 

Such was the intellectual cast of Dryden. His contact with 
philosophical skepticism enabled him to rationalize his natural 
diffidence of temper. Though he has no claim to originality as a 
thinker, he did possess a loose group of ideas and philosophical 
doctrines which he understood and to which he felt himself affined. 
They constitute an essential part of his personality, both as a man 
and as a writer; to them Dryden was attracted by his "genius," 
his "particular way of thinking," and through them his intellec- 
tual character was formed. Their pervasive influence is evident 
wherever Dryden made any important intellectual decisions, 
Whether in politics, religion, or philosophy — most evident, per- 
haps, in his conversion to Catholicism. They drew him quite 
naturally into certain currents of thought of the century. He 
lived in an age of philosophical skepticism ; every reader of any pre- 
tensions to cultivation knew Montaigne and Charron intimately, 
and almost every scholar had read Sextus Empiricus. Neither 
Dryden nor his age can be fully understood apart from this Pyr- 
rhonism, diffused in every department of thought, lending itself 
to the most diverse purposes, appearing sometimes in strange 
guises and in the most unexpected places. 

2* Ibid., p. 124. 



i Greek ii Medieval and Christian iii The sixteenth century: 

Montaigne iv The seventeenth century: Pascal 

V The seventeenth century: Browne 

SKEPTICISM ^ in the seventeenth century cannot be appre- 
ciated as an historical force if it is defined narrowly as a 
philosophical system. It was protean in nature, as much a group 
of tendencies as a system. It had popular as well as learned tradi- 
tions, and it appealed to the most heterogeneous authorities, both 
ancient and modern. Primarily it was, of course, the philosophy 
of Pyrrho, the reputed founder of the Greek sect, which had been 
transmitted to the modern world through the writings of Sextus 
Empiricus. But in the welter of Renaissance thought this Greek 
philosophy was frequently associated with various other traditions 
of a disruptive or anti-rational nature, which under its influence 
might in this way be further developed and clarified. Thus the 
warnings issued by Solomon and St. Paul and the Church Fathers 
against the vanity of worldly knowledge might lead the pious 
Christian apologist to a respectful reading of Sextus Empiricus. 
Various medieval developments, such as Nominalism and mys- 
ticism, had already popularized a distrust of the reason as an organ 
of religious knowledge. Among other influences of a disruptive 
nature may be mentioned the influx of Arabian thought and the 
attacks on Aristotle and on the syllogism. We may therefore ex- 
pect the skepticism of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to 

^ It should be understood that the "skepticism" discussed in this volume is 
not the same as "religious unbelief." It is philosophical skepticism, that is, anti- 
rationalism. But inasmuch as it advanced a theory regarding the possibility or 
impossibility of knowledge, it had its applications to all realms of thought, to ethics, 
politics, science, as well as to the theory of Christian evidences. It is, of course, 
these numerous and various applications, more than the basic theory of knowledge, 
which command the attention of the student of the seventeenth century. 


The Traditions of Skepticism 17 

be of innumerable kinds and shades; it was as complex and vari- 
ous as a climate. 

Many of these developments do not interest the metaphysician 
who is concerned with skepticism purely as a dialectic; he would 
reject them as not skeptical at all in the strict philosophical sense. 
But the historian is not permitted to be so selective in his method. 
Ideas which in their origins were unrelated may by the accident 
of history come to be associated, and thus sometimes gain in pro- 
fundity, sometimes even receive new significance and intention. 
If the study of the history of ideas is to illuminate literature, it 
must concern itself not only with those major developments which 
attained a high degree of clarity and consistency, but also with 
those which to the philosopher seem second-rate and immature, 
even those which he would discard as mere unphilosophical preju- 

These observations are particularly applicable to the study of 
skepticism in the general culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. Skepticism existed in that age in all possible forms of 
immaturity and development, and one form of it might even appear 
in opposition to another. Its adherents were often at variance 
with one another, and sometimes with themselves. The skeptical 
argument might by the same man sometimes be pressed hard to 
its logical conclusion, sometimes be moderated to a mild form of 
anti-rationalism. To limit an historical investigation to skepticism 
full blown is to pluck the one bright flower and ignore the rest of 
the plant. 


Not until the eighteenth century, however, did modern skep- 
ticism make any profound advance over the essential dialectic of 
the Greeks. The whole argumentative procedure relied on in the 
seventeenth century was to be found in the writings of Sextus 
Empiricus, who lived about 200 a.d., and who, coming thus late, 
gave something like a summary statement to five hundred years of 
Greek skeptical philosophy. The history of the sect was obscure, 
but its great names enjoyed a considerable reputation and authority, 
vague as it was, when the school again became influential in the 

1 8 The Milieu of John Dry den 

The most celebrated was, of course, Pyrrho of Elis, who, after 
taking part in Alexander's campaign to India, settled in his native 
city and taught that seeking after knowledge is vain, and that in- 
difference to all philosophical assertions is the only way to peace of 
mind. Against every proposition, according to Pyrrho, the wise 
man will balance its contrary and consequently, by showing the 
futility of both, arrive at the happy state of imperturbability 
(ataraxia). But the main interest of Pyrrho was in his ethical 
teaching, to which this argument was the preparation. He held 
that, since no moral standard can be established by reason, the 
wise man will conform to the laws and conventions he finds about 
him. Thus the first great skeptic was, like many of his successors, 
a conservative in social and political matters. But he left no phil- 
osophical writings, and it is difficult to decide precisely how far he 
developed the doctrine of skepticism. 

Arcesilaus and Carneades, who represent the New Academy, 
wrote treatises which have been lost. Their doctrines, ascertain- 
able to some degree from Cicero and Diogenes Laertius, repre- 
sent a milder form of skepticism. A return to a more rigorous 
Pyrrhonism appeared with Aenesidemus, but his works have also 
been lost. The writings of Sextus Empiricus are, therefore, with 
the exception of fragments quoted by ancient authors, the sole 
literary remains of Greek skepticism; his two treatises, Thf 
Pyrrhonic Hypotyposes and Against th/r Mathematicians j exercised 
upon the modern world the force and fascination of a philosophical 

In these treatises the Renaissance found the most thorough 
and systematic demonstration yet attempted of the relativity of 
all knowledge, and of the futility of philosophizing. All knowledge, 
such was the argument, is built up from sense impressions, and 
who can test the reliability of the senses.'* Such imperfect exami- 
nation of them as it is within our power to make — a comparison 
of men with one another and of men with lower animals — tends 
only to show that our senses are defective and can give us but 
an inadequate, and often false, impression of the world about us. 
In support of this contention the skeptics gathered abundant 
examples: the square tower appears round from a distance; the 

The Traditions of Skepticism 19 

straight stick appears crooked in water; the sick and the well 
palate taste differently; such phenomena as meteors are terrifying 
only because they are rare; and hundreds of others. The skeptics 
therefore concluded that our impressions of phenomena, though 
admittedly real, cannot be regarded as genuine knowledge of things 
as they are. Having established this basic principle, they natur- 
ally went further and attacked also all deductions from sense im- 
pressions, all forms of dogmatic or confident assertion, whether in 
logic, in ethics, or in medicine. They pointed to the inconsistencies 
and contradictions among philosophers and scientists as sufficient 
demonstration that no one doctrine can be regarded as more true 
than another, and that the search for criteria of truth is only an 
attempt to know the unknowable. In the place of such stiff dog- 
matism — and the ancient skeptics were especially given to criti- 
cizing the high authoritative manner of the Stoics — these doubters 
adopted more humble formulas of expression: "I know nothing"; 
"Nothing can be known with certainty"; "Perhaps yes, perhaps 
no." In this state of equilibrium, of suspended judgment, with 
calm resignation to the unknowableness of truth, the skeptics 
sought for that inner peace which is the only attainable intellectual 

Like Pyrrho, most of the other Greek skeptics were primarily 
interested in the consequences of their argument for ethics. Any 
science of ethics was obviously impossible. The philosophers have 
never agreed on the summum honum; no moral pronouncement 
has ever been made to which one cannot juxtapose its opposite; 
the Persians permit sons to marry their mothers; the Egyptians, 
brothers to marry their sisters; the Greeks forbid both such 
marriages. Gods of all varieties are worshiped with equal sincerity 
by the different peoples of the world. The skeptic is unable to 
affirm that one is preferable, in any absolute sense, to another. 
He balances one against the other, and concludes that all man can 
know is that he can know nothing. 

However upsetting these doctrines were, their practical out- 
come was the very opposite of revolutionary. For since true knowl- 
edge is unattainable, it is futile to argue or quarrel over it, to 
sacrifice comfort or life for it; it is as well to conform to the cus- 

20 The Milieu of John Dryden 

torn of the country, to worship the gods as they are worshiped by 
the others; neither you nor anyone else can demonstrate that you 
would be wrong. Conduct yourself as a prudent man of sense and 
live as others live. In the modern world, as among the Greeks, 
the Skeptic has often been a traditionalist, conservative in temper, 
a defender of the established order in politics and society, and a 
conformist in religion and practical conduct.^ 


Throughout the Middle Ages the skeptical philosophy of an- 
tiquity remained practically unknown. Some echoes of it from 
Cicero, Augustine, and the Nodes Atticae of Aulus Gellius can be 
traced in the Polycraticus (Book VII) of John of Salisbury, in 
Henry of Ghent, and in Siger of Brabant, all of whom per contra 
demonstrated the necessity of believing in the efficacy of the reason ; 
but their discussions are superficial, and their knowledge of ancient 
skepticism is necessarily extremely vague and fragmentary. A 
curious manuscript of the Hypotyposes of Sextus Empiricus, in a 
bad Latin translation, dating from the Middle Ages, has indeed 
been found in the Bibliotheque Nationale,^ but it is an isolated 
phenomenon. The Middle Ages did not even know the names of 
Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus. 

Nevertheless that period was not without its own forms of anti- 
rationalism. That ambitious effort to explain the whole universe 
in one coherent intellectual system, which reached its highest level 
in the philosophy of Aquinas, provoked the vigorous and penetrat- 
ing criticism of Duns Scotus and William of Occam; and this op- 
position of Nominalism to the orthodox and official philosophy of 
Realism stimulated in the late Middle Ages some very important 
developments of an anti-rationalistic nature. For the Nominalists, 
although they were not skeptics, tended to minimize the impor- 
tance of reason in religious experience and to separate the spheres 

^ The best account of Greek skepticism, and the one to which I am chiefly 
indebted, is the famous volume by Victor Brochard, Les Sceftiques grecs (Paris, 
1887; reprinted 1923). 

' See Charles Jourdain, "Sextus Empiricus et la Philosophie Scolastique," 
Excursions historiques et philosophiques a. tr avers le Moyen Age (Paris, 1888), pp. 
201-217. To this essay I am indebted for the information in this paragraph. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 21 

of theology and philosophy; theology, they began to say, is not a 
science. The certitude of faith is of a different kind from that of 
reason. Such argument naturally moved in the direction of skep- 
ticism, in the direction of "fideism,'* an error which the Church 
began to condemn as early as 1348.'* The irrepressible, though 
condemned. Nominalists thus left a legacy of anti-rationalism for a 
later age to appropriate and use in its own way.^ 

These Nominalists were, on the whole, pious and sincere Chris- 
tians, some of them notable mystics; they separated reason and 
faith only in order to liberate the latter. But there were others 
who made the same cleavage with a more ambiguous purpose, 
whose pretence to a pious intention was only a cover and an excuse 
for a free exercise of philosophical speculation. By drawing a dis- 
tinction between theological and philosophical truth they could 
assert a doctrine as true philosophically, though, with submission 
to ecclesiastical authority, they would admit that it was false in 
theology. This conception of the double truth, introduced into 
European thought in the thirteenth century by Averroes,^ was sen- 

* The "philosophical errors" of Nicholas d'Autricourt, recanted by him in 
1348, are given by H. Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum, loth ed. (Fribourg, 
1908), pp. 221-222. They include the following: i . . . Quod de rebus per appa- 
rentia naturalia quasi nulla certitudo potest haberi; 9 . . . quod certitude evidentiae 
non habet gradus; lo . . . quod de substantia materiali alia ab anima nostra non 
habemus certitudinem evidentiae; ii . . . quod excepta certitudine fidei non erat 
alia certitudo nisi certitudo primi principii vel quae in primum principium potest 

^ It may be worth repeating here that medieval thought continued to be 
studied throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its forms and phrase- 
ology were part of the idiom of the time. Thus even Abraham Cowley identified 
that tree in the garden of Eden whose forbidden fruit brought all cur woe, with the 
Arbor Porphyrii, which bore the fruit of Realism: 

"That right Porphyrian Tree which did true Logick shew, 
Each Leaf did learned Notions give, 
And th' Apples were Demonstrative . . . 
The onely Science Man by this did get, 

Was but to knozv he nothing Knew. . . ." 
In this "railing against the dogmatists" Cowley shows not a trace of Sextus Em- 
piricus; he speaks as a belated Nominalist, denouncing the Realists. See his poem. 
The Tree of Knowledge, in Poems, ed, A. R. Waller (Cambridge, 1905), p. 45. 

^ In 1277 a large number of heretical doctrines taught at the University of 
Paris were formally condemned, including many Averroistic propositions which 
asserted the distinction discussed here: "Anima separata non est akerabihs se- 

22 The Milieu of John Dryden 

sationally popularized early in the sixteenth century by Pomponazzi 
(1462-1525), professor of philosophy at Bologna, who, defending 
himself against the charge of heresy, answered: "I believe as a 
Christian what I cannot believe as a philosopher." Henceforth 
this defense became notoriously common among the emancipated 
wits of the Renaissance; it became a commonplace of sophisti- 
cation. But the theory of the double truth was not confined to 
the proponents of dangerous new speculation; it proved also to 
be a useful weapon for the orthodox. Although condemned by the 
Lateran Council of the 19th of December, 15 12, it appeared fre- 
quently among French Catholic writers after 1540 who engaged 
in a polemic against the new Protestant appeal to the judgment of 
the individual.'^ Thus this heresy, somewhat developed under the 
influence of the newly revived skeptical thought of antiquity, was 
pressed into the service of the Church, to demonstrate the danger- 
ousness of confiding in the judgment of the individual and to teach 
the reason to bow submissively to the authority of faith.^ 

Some authority for this argument was to be found in Christian 
doctrine and the Church Fathers. From the time of St. Paul the 
Christian religion had had to establish itself in opposition to Greek 
and Roman philosophy; and the early leaders of the Church could 
appeal to many a text in St. Paul to prove that pride of intellect 
must be vanquished before the soul can admit that true knowledge 
which is from God. It must not be supposed that St. Paul and 
most of the Fathers were philosophical skeptics; but the fact was 

cundumphilosophiam, licet secundum fidem alteretur. — Quod naturalis philoso- 
phus simpllciter debet negate mundi novitatem, quia nititut causis et rationibus 
natutalibus: fidelis autem potest negate mundi aetetnitatem, quia nititut causis 
supetnatutalibus. — Quod cteatio non est possibilis, quamvis conttatium sit 
tenendum secundum fidem. — Quod resuttectio fututa non debet ctedi a philoso- 
pho, quia impossibilis est investigati pet rationem. Errot, quia philosophus debet 
captivate intellectum in obsequium fidei." — See Ernst Renan, Averroes et V Aver- 
roisme, pp. zy^-zj^. 

'' Henri Busson, Lfs Sources et le developpement du rationalisme dans la litterature 
frangaise de la Renaissance {1533-1601)^ (Paris, 1922), has studied thoroughly the 
influence of the Paduan School on French thought, and frequently emphasizes the 
fideistic development due to it. See, e.g., pp. 55, 258, 384-385, 428, and 435, n. i. 

* M. Busson therefore counts among the representatives of Paduan fideism, 
not only Montaigne, but also La Mothe Le Vayer and Pascal. See op. cit.y p. 619. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 23 

not lost on modern skeptics that it was possible to collect a multi- 
tude of passages from these high authorities to show that skepti- 
cism, of all philosophies, was the best introduction to the mysteries 
of religion. La Mothe Le Vayer devoted some pages to this sub- 
ject in his De la vertu des payens (1642); contending that pagan 
philosophies can be of real value to the Christian life, provided 
they are "circumcised," he comes in turn to the sect of skepticism: 

However, though it is undeniable that this Philosophy [Skepti- 
cism] needs, like the others, to be purged of many faults, even of 
its impiety, which requires a pretty rigorous circumcision; never- 
theless I also believe that, after such abridgment, this philosophy 
is possibly one of the least contrary to Christianity and the one 
which can accept most submissively the mysteries of our Religion. 
What obliges me to make such a statement is principally the outcry 
of all the Church Fathers against the dogmatic philosophers, whom 
they have generally denominated the Patriarchs of the Heretics. . . 
That is why Saint Gregory, distinguished by the cognomen of 
Theologian, says that these dogmatists have been to the Church 
as Egyptian plagues, by which it has been afflicted in every pos- 
sible way. In fact, people like Decius and Julian, or the other 
famous persecutors, have never made the Church suffer so much by 
open use of force as have many of the learned and famous philoso- 
phers by their subtle disputes and by the guile of their writings. 
But everyone knows that they were prompted to that sort of thing 
chiefly by that presumption and obstinacy, of which Skepticism 
is so much the declared leading enemy that it may be called for 
that reason a philosophy favorable to the Faith, because it de- 
stroys that which is most contrary to this mediator of our salva- 
tion. For Saint Paul has repeated nothing so often in all his Epistles 
as the warning to flee from the vanity of learning and the delusions 
made use of by the philosophers when they base their opinions on 
axioms and on elements of the material world which have nothing 
in common with the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Such advice he gave 
to the Romans, the Hebrews, the Ephesians, the Galatians, and 
in general to all those whom he honored with his letters. But the 
Skeptics have never spoken more vigorously against the pride of 
the Dogmatists than he did to the Corinthians, advising them 
that it is necessary to be foolish and ignorant according to the 
World to be wise and understanding according to God, in whose 
sight the greatest learning and the most acute sapience appear 
only as pure folly. For, so this sacred Vessel continues, it anyone 
thinks that he truly knows something, he does in fact not know 
even in what manner he should know that which he must know. 
In all soberness, it is fairly difficult to pay the deference due to 

24 The Milieu of John Dryden 

these Apostolic precepts without valuing highly the modest 
suspension of opinion of the Skeptics, and without detesting the 
arrogance of other sects in maintaining the infallible certainty of 
their maxims. . . . We are saying here only what is in conformity 
with the best theology, for that of Saint Denis expounds nothing 
more explicitly than the feebleness of our intellect and its ignor- 
ance regarding all divine matters. ... I also find the opinion of 
Saint Augustine very weighty on general moral questions. He 
shows in Book XVIII of his City of God that we should rather 
receive from Divine Authority those precepts which determine 
what is vice or virtue than rely on human reason, which is neither 
powerful enough nor uniform enough to command universal obedi- 
ence. There is no act so vicious, as he well observed, that it has 
not been approved by some philosopher, and no act so virtuous 
but that some members of this profession have condemned it. . . . 
Such are the considerations that have made me think so favorably 
about a philosophy which I do not believe is more an offender 
than others, provided one compels it to yield that deference which 
all philosophies owe to Holy Theology, and provided that, as a 
hand maiden only, it is called along with the others into the service 
of this divine mistress.^ . 

Among the Patristic influences Augustinianism was by far the 
most important for the fideistic tendencies of the sixteenth and 
seventeenth centuries. The nature of Augustine, as well as his 
influence on Christian thought, was, of course, far from simple; 
he represented also an intellectualism which found its greatest ex- 
pression in Thomas Aquinas. But he has stimulated in all ages a 
religious feeling which, in its fervent leaning on a personal God, 
was not only unintellectual but often anti-intellectual. This 
pietism of Augustine found its disciples in certain evangelical 
and mystical movements within medieval Catholicism, in Protes- 
tantism in general, and particularly Calvinism, and in the Jansenist 
movement in France in the seventeenth century. The Augustinian 
doctrine of grace, according to which the intellectual as well as 
the moral faculties of man are in their present fallen state totally 
useless toward salvation, had both in Augustine and among his 
followers an eff'ect parallel to philosophical skepticism. In the Prot- 
estant churches, however, where the appeal of the Church had to be 
to the intelligence, and even the learning, of the individual, by way 

^ Trans, from Qluvtcs (Paris, 1656), I, 646-649. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 25 

of opposition to the authority of the Roman CathoHc Church, this 
fideism could not easily pass into a complete Pyrrhonism. But in 
many Catholic writers, such as Pascal, the transition from Augus- 
tinianism to skepticism was natural and unchecked. In fact, one 
can find in Augustine himself a fideism and authoritarianism defi- 
nitely based on skeptical principles; Catholic controversialists in 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could easily quote, for the 
purposes of embarrassing his avowed Protestant disciples, state- 
ments that he believed in the Gospel only because of the authority 
of the 

But the doctrine of the fall of man, even when it was given a 
milder interpretation than the Augustinian, might find useful 
support in the skeptical argument. A book which enjoyed con- 
siderable reputation among English Catholics in the seventeenth 
century was Thomas Fitzherbert's Treatise concerning Policy and 
Religion}^ This Catholic gentleman of Staffordshire, living in exile 
after 1588, devoted himself to the Church, first in Spain, then in 
Rome, where he ultimately entered the priesthood. In the dedi- 
cation of the Treatise to his son, he asks him to observe in it es- 
pecially three points, *'the natural imbecillity of man's wit," ''the 
course of God's providence in the affaires of men," and "the severe 
Justice of God in the punishment of sinne." It is the first point 
that concerns us, and particularly Fitzherbert's grounds for his 
doctrine. **To the end," he says, "that the natural infirmitie of 
man, and his ignorance may the better appeare, the cause therof 
is first to be considered, for so we shal the better understand the 
effect." He first states the theological doctrine: 

Therefore although man at his first creation, had al the powers 
of his soule vigorous, & perfect in their nature, prompt, and readie 
to the execution of their functions, as his reason & vnderstanding 
cleare, his wil and affection ordinate, and inclyned to good, and his 

^° Such remarks as "Ego vero evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicae 
[ecclesiae] commoverat auctoritas." See Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, 
English translation (London, 1898), V, 77 fF. On the similarity of Pascal to Lac- 
tantius and Augustine see Edouard Droz, Lf Scepticisms d( Pascal (Paris, 1SS6), 
pp. 282-296. 

" First published in parts, 1606 and 1610, and reprinted in 1615, 1652, and 
1696. The British Museum has a copy of the last edition, which was once owned 
by Mary of Modena. 

26 The Milieu of John Dryden 

sensual powers so bridled by original iustice, that they yealded due 
obedience to reason : yet when original iustice was lost by the fal of 
our first father Adam, and the light of Gods grace extinguished, 
not only reason was much weakened, and the wil disordred, but 
also the sensual powers so corrupted, or rather infected, that they 
haue euer since runne head-long to their obiects with such violence, 
that they commonly draw the wil after them, .... 

Then follows the appeal to skepticism, not as set forth by Sextus 
Empiricus in this case, but the skepticism of the New Academy 
which Fitzherbert had learned from Cicero: 

Hereto I may adde also another reason of the error in mans 
vnderstanding, to wit, the difficultie of the obiect therof, for that 
truth, (which is the obiect of the vnderstanding) is not only in- 
uolued, and wrapped like the kernel of the nutte, in so many shells 
& rindes of abstruse doubtes and difficulties, that many times it is 
hardly found, but also it is so incountred with falsehood and error, 
disguised with the shew & apparence of veritie, that the best wittes 
are often deceaued therewith; and therefore no maruaile if the 
wisest men of the world doe many times goe astray, stumble, & fal 
into the obscuritie of the manifold, and intricate doubtes, ques- 
tions, controuersies, perplexities, & vncertaine euentes that daylie 
occurre in humaine affaires. 

This the wisest Philosophers did so wel consider, that many of 
them affirmed; that nothing in this world can certainly be knowne 
and vnderstood, by reason of the error in mans senses, imbecilitie 
of their wittes, breuitie of their Hues, and the obscuritie of truth; 
of which opinion were Socrates, Plato, Democritus, Anaxagoras, 
Empedocles, and al the new Academicks; ^^ in so much that Soc- 
rates was iudged by the Oracle, to be the wisest man then liuing, 
because he was wont to say. Hoc solum scio, quod nihil scio. I 
know only this, that I know nothing; wherto Archesilaus added, that 
not so much as that could be knowne, which Socrates said he 
knewe, to wit: that he knewe nothing. And although these Philos- 
ophers may seeme to haue exceeded in exaggerating the ignorance 
of man (thereby to represse, & correct, as it may be thought, the 
presumption that many men had of their owne knowledge, & wis- 
dome) yet they sufficiently signified therby, their conceit of the 
weaknes of mans iudgment, and imbecilitie of his wit.^^ 

Fitzherbert refuses to go the whole distance with the more extreme 
skeptics, but, like the later La Mothe Le Vayer, though less deeply 

" In margin: *' Cicero. Acad, qufst. lib. i. ^ 2." " Ed. 1615, pp. 3-5. 

The Traditions of Skepticism ij 

read in the subject, he regards a moderate Pyrrhonism as an ex- 
cellent preparation for the Evangel. His book provides us with 
one more bit of evidence as to the wide diffusion and almost inevi- 
table growth of fideism at this time. 

It is therefore not surprising that, when ancient skepticism was 
rediscovered and popularized in the sixteenth century, it was 
readily assimilated by such medieval and patristic traditions and 
its new argumentative resources turned to old and familiar polemi- 
cal purposes. It provided an armory of weapons for those who 
thought that anti-rationalism or fideism was the soundest defense 
of religion. But they were dangerous weapons even to the side 
that used them; they were officially condemned by the Roman 
Catholic Church. Nevertheless her apologists continually em- 
ployed them against Protestantism and rationalism, the two most 
dangerous enemies of the Roman Catholic Church in the Renais- 
sance. And thus the arguments of Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus 
appeared on the same page with appeals to St. Paul and the 
Fathers, in defense of the Christian religion in general and of the 
Roman Catholic Church in particular. The renowned exponents 
of this apologetic in the sixteenth century were Francis Pico della 
Mirandola, Francis Sanchez, and Montaigne, and in the seven- 
teenth, Charron, La Mothe Le Vayer, Pascal, and Huet. Within 
this tradition, also, lies what is most characteristic in Dryden's 
ideas on religion. 


The bibliography of Sextus Empiricus does not suggest any 
wide diffusion of his thought before 1700. The Greek text of his 
treatises was first printed at Geneva in 1621, and this editio prin- 
ceps sufficed for all Europe until the edition of Fabricius in 1718.^* 
More important in its influence was the publication by Henri 
Stephen of his own Latin translation of the Hypotyposes in Paris 
in 1562, which was reprinted in 1569 with a Latin version of the 
Adversus Mathematicos by Gentian Hervet. Thomas Stanley pub- 
lished an English translation of the Hypotyposes in his History of 

" Neither does it appear to have been easily accessible in manuscript form in 
the sixteenth century. The few manuscripts extant have been described briefly by 
Herman Mutschmann, in his edition of Sextus Empiricus (Leipzig, 1912-14). 

28 The Milieu of John Dryden 

Philosophy (1655-61; second edition, 1687), and a French trans- 
lation was made by Samuel Sorbiere (1615-70). These few 
publications, most of them coming so late in the period, do not 
indicate any momentous skeptical revival. Perhaps many readers 
contented themselves with the succinct but definite descriptions 
of skeptical doctrine in Diogenes Laertius, and many others with 
Cicero's exposition of the thought of the New Academy. But the 
real explanation seems rather to be that the ipsissima verba of the 
ancient writers were eclipsed and rendered superfluous, at least for 
the general reader, by the celebrated works of their Renaissance 
disciples. All the arguments and proofs of Sextus Empiricus were 
to be found restated there, along with a multitude of startling new 
ones collected by modern wits in an age when the knowledge of 
the world was ever expanding. The diflFusion of skepticism in this 
period is explained by the popular acceptance of such writers as 
Montaigne and Charron. But it began before Montaigne, even 
before anything by Sextus had appeared in print. 

Gian-Francesco Pico della Mirandola, nephew of the renowned 
Giovanni Pico, became alarmed over the growth of humanism, 
with its tendency to exalt pagan thought and neglect Christianity. 
He therefore published in 1520 an assault on the human reason 
and human learning: Examen Vanitatis Doctrinae Gentium et 
Veriiaiis Christianae Disciplinae, distinctum in libros sex: quorum 
tres priores omnem philosophorum sectam universim, reliqui Aris- 
toteleam et Aristoteleis armis particulatim impugnant, ubicumque 
autem Christiana et asseritur et celebratur disciplina. He divided all 
philosophers into three groups: the dogmatists, who affirm; the 
academics, who deny and therefore are but negative or inverted 
dogmatists; and the skeptics or Pyrrhonians, who neither affirm 
nor deny, but doubt. He declared himself an adherent of the last 
sect, and borrowed his whole method of argument from Sextus 
Empiricus, whose work he had met with in manuscript. Man is 
ever changeable, and his senses are deceptive; we can never get be- 
yond our sensations to test them; all the sciences and arts abound 
in contradictions which demonstrate their unreliability and fu- 
tility. There is only one truth given to man the authoritativeness 
of which the intellect is unable to question, and that is the truth of 

The Traditions of Skepticism 29 

revelation. Skepticism thus emancipates us from the vanity of 
pagan science and inducts us into Christian truth and disciplined^ 

Ten years after Pico's Examen there appeared a less philo- 
sophical, but also more popular, book with the same purpose: De 
Incertitudine et Vanitaie Scientiarum et Artium aique Excellentia 
Verhi Dei Declamaiio, by Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim. For 
two centuries this attack on the presumption of human learning 
reached a wide European public, both in the original Latin and in 
vernacular translations. Montaigne borrowed generously from it. 
But it is not truly Pyrrhonian, and possibly derives rather from the 
docta ignorantia of Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64) than from Pico and 
Sextus Empiricus. Its importance lies chiefly in that it was re- 
garded by its later readers as an addition to the literature o( para- 
dox, 2i literary g^wr^ which frequently became a vehicle for skeptical 
thought and added to the spicy flavor of the modern skeptics, from 
Montaigne down.^® 

Between Agrippa and Montaigne there was in France — as 
M. Busson has shown — a continuous discussion of the vexing 
problem of the relation of philosophy and religion, of reason and 
faith. Under the influence of the Paduan school, this discussion 
frequently terminated in fideism, sometimes passing into the 
milder skepticism of the New Academy; as regards ancient in- 
fluences, it owed more to Cicero than to Sextus Empiricus. ^'^ In 
the light of this continuous tradition we can more readily under- 
stand the almost simultaneous appearance of two essays of similar 

^ This account is based on Fortunat Strowski, Montaigne (Paris, 1906), pp. 
124-130. Strowski thinks Montaigne had read Pico's book, but Pierre Villey finds 
no evidence for this supposition. See his Les Sources et revolution des Essais de 
Montaigne (Paris, 1908), II, 166. 

^^ In the 1603 reprint of the French translation of Agrippa's book the title is 
changed from Declamation to Paradoxe. La Mothe Le Vayer thought that para- 
doxes, although they had been written by philosophers of other sects, were pecul- 
iarly appropriate to skepticism: *'Je recognois ingenuement qu'il n'y a personne 
qui preste son oreille plus volontiers que moy aux opinions extraordinaires, et 
qu'avec ce que j'y puis avoir de naturelle disposition, ma Sceptique m'a beaucoup 
ayde a me donner cette inclination particuliere aux sentiments paradoxiques; comma 
celle qui s^ait mieux que toute autre Philosophie les convertir a son advantage." — 
Dialogues . . . far Oratius Tubero (Frankfort, 1716), I, 327. Cf. also I, 171, 

^^ Busson, op. cit., throughout, but in particular pp. 109, 112, 262, 419-423, 
and 619-621. Also Villey, op. cit., I, 89, and II, 169 fF. 

30 The Milieu of John Dryden 

tendency, Montaigne's Apology for Raymond Sebond (1580) and 
the Quod Nihil Scitur (1581) by Sanchez, professor of medicine 
at MontpelHer. 

Of these Montaigne's essay is of course the more important; 
it became the classic and standard exposition of modern skeptical 
thought. The shadow of his authority extends over the thought 
and literature of the whole seventeenth century, in England as 
well as in France. 

Notwithstanding its title, the Apology is less related to Sebond's 
rationalistic defense of religion than it is to Sextus Empiricus. 
Montaigne considers two objections which had been made to 
Sebond's treatise. *'The first thing he is reproved for in his Booke, 
is, that Christians wrong themselves much, in that they ground 
their beleefe upon humane reasons, which is conceived but by 
faith, and by a particular inspiration of God." ^^ Montaigne re- 
plies that we should not receive our religion in mere sottishness, 
and be "Christians by the same title, as we are either Perigordians 
or Germans. ... A goodly faith, that beleeves that which it be- 
leeveth, onely because it wanteth the courage not to beleeve the 
same." ^^ But faith must illuminate reason; and faith, "giving 
as it were a tincture and lustre unto Sebonds arguments, make 
them the more firme and solid: They may well serve for a direction 
and guide to a young learner, to lead and set him in the right way 
of" this knowledge." ^'^ Thus the first objection is disposed of in 
ten pages. 

But "some say his Arguments are weake, and simple to verifie 
what he would; and undertake to front him easily. Such fellowes 
must somwhat more roughly be handled : for they are more danger- 
ous, and more malicious than the first. . . . The meanes I use to 
suppresse this frenzy, and which seemeth the fittest for my pur- 
pose, is to crush, and trample this humane pride and fiercenesse 
under foot, to make them feele the emptinesse, vacuitie, and no 
worth of man: and violently to pull out of their hands, the silly 
weapons of their reason; to make them stoope, and bite and snarle 
at the ground, under the authority and reverence of Gods Maj- 

^^ Essays, trans. Florio, Tudor Translations (London, 1893), II, 130. 
i» Ibid., pp. 135-136. '^° Ibid.,p. 138. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 31 

esty." ^^ This reply to the second objection requires more than 
two hundred pages. And here the rationahsm of Sebond is for- 
gotten; the dialectic of Sextus Empiricus takes its place. 

**Let us then see whether man hath any other stronger reasons 
in his power, then Sebondes, and whether it lie in him, by argument 
or discourse, to come to any certainty." ^^ Montaigne begins with 
a lesson in humility. "Presumption is our naturall and originall 
infirmitie." Presumption has led man to assume that he is master 
and lord of creation. But he cannot demonstrate that he is su- 
perior to animals. "When I am playing with my Cat, who knowes 
whether she have more sport in dallying with me, than I have in 
gaming with her.f* We entertaine one another with mutuall apish 
trickes. If I have my houre to begin or to refuse, so hath she 
hers." ^'^ Montaigne fills pages with amusing illustrations of how 
animals display "a very subtill spirit" and men do not, until the 
reader is indeed content to escape being placed in a category lower 
than the beasts. 

But man possesses learning, which is surely a legitimate source 
of pride. Montaigne does not think so; learning is always danger- 
ous and often useless. "I have in my daies seen a hundred Artif- 
icers, and as many labourers, more wise and more happie, than 
some Rectors in the Universitie, and whom I would rather re- 
semble. Me thinks Learning hath a place amongst things neces- 
sarie for mans life, as glorie, noblenesse, dignitie, or at most as 
riches, and such other qualities, which indeed stead the same; but a 
far-oflF, and more in conceipt, than by Nature." ^^ Learning puffeth 
up, whereas "onely humilitie and submission is able to make a per- 
fect honest man. Every one must not have the knowledge of his 
dutie referred to his own judgment, but ought rather to have it 
prescribed unto him, and not be allowed to chuse it at his pleasure 
and free-will: otherwise according to the imbecilitie of our rea- 
sons, and infinite varietie of our opinions, we might peradventure 
forge and devise such duties unto our selves, as would induce us 
(as Epicurus saith) to endeavour to destroy and devoure one an- 
other. . . . The opinion of wisdome is the plague of man," -^ 

2^ Ibid., p. 1 39. " Ibid.y p. 140. 23 /^,-^^ p j^^ 

2* Ibid., p. 188. ^ Ibid., p. 189. 

32 The Milieu of John Dry den 

In no sphere of life is pride of intellect more dangerous, or hu- 
mility more profitable, than in religion. For *'it is not by our dis- 
course or understanding, that we have received our religion, it is 
by a forreine authority, and commandement. The weaknesse of 
our judgment, helps us more than our strength to compasse the 
same, and our blindnesse more than our cleare-sighted eies. It is 
more by the meanes of our ignorance, than of our skill, that we are 
wise in heavenly knowledge." ^^ Here Montaigne arrives at the 
heart of his subject and devotes some pages to a eulogy of Pyrrho- 
nism as not only the wisest, but the most honest, of all philosophies. 
** Whosoever shall imagine a perpetuall confession of ignorance, 
and a judgement upright and without staggering, to what occasion 
soever may chance; That man conceives the true Phyrrhonisme." ^^ 
It is, we learn, a comfortable philosophy; it not only gives us 
an inner tranquillity, but it also makes us tractable and enables us 
to live at peace with our neighbors, our government, and our estab- 
lished religion. 

It is better for us to suffer the order of the world to manage us 
without further inquisition. A mind warranted from prejudice, 
hath a marvellous preferment to tranquility. Men that censure 
and controule their judges, doe never duly submit themselves unto 
them. How much more docile and tractable are simple and un- 
curious mindes found both towards the lawes of religion and Poli- 
tike decrees, than these over-vigilant and nice wits, teachers of 
divine and humane causes? There is nothing in mans invention, 
wherein is so much likelyhood, possibilitie and profit [as in Pyr- 
rhonism]. This representeth man bare and naked, acknowledging 
his naturall weaknesse, apt to receive from above some strange 
power, disfurnished of all humane knowledge, and so much the 
more fitte to harbour divine understanding, disannulling his judg- 
ment, that so he may give more place unto faith: Neither mis- 
beleeving nor establishing any doctrine or opinion repugnant unto 
common lawes and observances, humble, obedient, disciplinable 
and studious; a sworne enemy to Heresie, and by consequence 
exempting himselfe from all vaine and irreligious opinions, invented 
and brought up by false Sects. It is a white sheet prepared to take 
from the finger of God what form soever it shall please him to 
imprint therein. ^^ 

^ Essays^ II, 204. ^7 7^,'^,^ p. 210. " Ibid, pp. 211-212. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 33 

One may ask how a Pyrrhonist could with such confidence desig- 
nate certain ''Sects" as "false"; but the answer is that Montaigne 
had no taste for revolutions and reformations. 

It is not wise to look for too definite an organization in an essay 
by Montaigne. But the Apology, notwithstanding its confusing 
exuberance of detail and illustration, does move consistently in 
one direction and with definite steps, as M. Villey has shown. '^ 
It moves toward a complete Pyrrhonism. The climax of the ar- 
gument is a systematic attack on reason itself, for which Mon- 
taigne borrowed the destructive dialectic of Sextus Empiricus. 
He seems to have felt some misgivings about popularizmg this 
dialectic, which should be used against the rationalistic enemies 
of religion, he says, only as a last resort. "You for whom I have 
taken the paines to enlarge so long a worke (against my custome) 
will not shun to maintaine your Sebond, with the ordinary forme 
of arguing, whereof you are daily instructed, and will therein ex- 
ercise both your minde and study: For this last trick of fence, 
must not be employed but as an extreme remedy. It is a desperate 
thrust, gainst which you must forsake your weapons, to force 
your adversary to renounce his, and a secret slight, which must 
seldome and very sparingly be put in practise." ^ But Montaigne 
himself did not set an example of sparing use of the skeptical dia- 
lectic; it was too necessary to his temper of mind, too closely in- 
tertwined with his characteristic thought. It was the basis, not 
only of his philosophy of faith, but also of that quite different 
philosophy of his which made the Essays the livre de chevet of the 
"libertines," the philosophy of "Nature." 

Montaigne had been, to begin with, a disciple of the Stoics, 
whose doctrine sustained so many elevated minds in the Renais- 
sance. Under their influence he composed his first essays, which 
are doubtless less read than any other part of his work. But about 
1576 he discovered Sextus Empiricus, probably in the 1562 transla- 
tion by Henri Stephen.^^ His enthusiasm over his discovery was so 
great that early in 1576 he struck a medal to celebrate it; he 
decorated the walls of his tower study with mottoes from Sextus; 

2» Op. cit., II, 185. 30 £ssays, Tudor Translations, II, 275. 

31 Villey, op. cit., I, 218. 

34 The Milieu of John Dry den 

and he wrote the Apology. Aside from the Apology, however, the 
consequence of this intellectual crisis seems to have been mainly 
a new orientation in Montaigne's ethical thought. His experience 
was something like a delivery from an intellectual prison, the prison 
of Stoicism, in which he had never been at ease. He ceased to be a 
dogmatist in philosophy, in politics, in ethics, and became hence- 
forth a follower of ** Nature" — not the rigorous and normative 
conception of the Stoics, but his own nature, ''supple et ondoyant." 
And thus the same skeptical argument which humbled the refrac- 
tory reason before the inscrutable mysteries of religion, also served 
to liberate Montaigne and his disciples from a servitude to rigoris- 
tic ethics. "I study my selfe more than any other subject. It is my 
supernaturall Metaphisike, it is my naturall Philosophy. . . . Oh 
how soft, how gentle, and how sound a pillow is ignorance and in- 
curiosity to rest a well composed head upon. I had rather under- 
stand my selfe well in my selfe, than in Cicero." ^^ After 1576 
Montaigne became the supreme exponent of Naturalism, the 
libertine Naturalism of the Renaissance. The Essays which so 
profoundly influenced the religious thought of Pascal inspired also 
the unedifying verse of Theophile, who imitated so perfectly both 
the temper and the ideas of Montaigne: 

I agree that everyone should always follow nature; her empire 
is pleasant and her law is not harsh. ... I think that everyone 
would have sufficient mother wit if he followed the unconfined 
course which nature prescribes. . . . Never set yourself in opposi- 
tion to the laws of nature. ^^ 

They became the bible of the sophisticated beaux esprits against 
whom Pere Garasse felt so bitter, and whose doctrine he has suc- 
cinctly stated: 

There is no divinity or sovereign power on earth other than 
NATURE, which we are obliged to satisfy in everything, not refusing 
to our bodies or our senses anything that they desire from us in 
the exercise of their powers and natural faculties. ^'^ 

Some of Montaigne's disciples were fideists, and some were liber- 
tines. And some of the libertines, when the heats of youth were 

22 Essays, III, 338-339. 

33 Trans, from Theophile, CEuvres completes, ed. AUeaume (Pans, 1866), Notice, 
p. Ixvi. 

34 Ibid., p. xl. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 35 

over and religion became a more pressing concern, quite naturally 
accepted their faith on fideistic principles. 


Similar paradox obtains in the vogue of De la sagesse,^^ by 
Pierre Charron. Charron was a priest, and his intention was to 
present a Christian Stoicism. But he was also a friend and an 
admirer of Montaigne, and he incorporated in his book the wisdom 
of Pyrrhonism as well as that of Stoicism. Moreover, as he ex- 
plained in his preface, divine wisdom did not come within the 
limitations he had chosen for his subject; he adopted the tone of a 
man of the world. No doubt the lesson of Stoicism was not en- 
tirely neglected by some readers, but the success of the book was 
among the beaux esprits, who read in it what was to their liking. 
Others attacked it as dangerous to religion; in his Petit traite de 
sagessey first published in 1606, three years after Charron's death, 
he vigorously defended his skeptical attitude: 

But to press [these Roman Catholic critics of Skepticism] 
further and show them that they do not well understand their 
business, I will inform them that this principle of mine, which it 
pleases them to call Pyrrhonism, is something more serviceable 
to piety and divine working than any other whatever, and very 
far from clashing with them, serviceable, I say, as much for the 
generation and propagation of piety as for conversion. Theology, 
even like mysticism, teaches us that to prepare the soul properly 
for God and his working, and to qualify it to receive the impression 
of the Holy Spirit, we must empty it, cleanse it, strip it, and denude 
it of all opinion, belief, inclination, make it like a white sheet of 
paper, dead to itself and the world, so that God may live and 
operate in it. . . . From which it appears that to plant and install 
Christianity in an unbelieving and infidel people, such as the 
Chinese are at present, it would be an excellent procedure to begin 
with these propositions and persuasions: that all the learning of 
the world is but vanity and falsehood; that the world is confused, 
torn, and debased by fantastic ideas fabricated in its own mind; 
that God has indeed created man to know the truth, but man can 
not know it unaided, not by any human means, unless God him- 

^ Printed in 1601 and frequently reprinted in the seventeenth century. Eng- 
lish translation by Samson Leonard, 1606, 1615 ?, 1620 ?, 1630, 1658, and 1670; 
by George Stanhope, 1697 and 1707, 

36 The Milieu of John Dryden 

self, whose bosom is the abode of truth and who has bestowed on 
man the desire for truth, unless God himself reveal it, as he has 
done: but to prepare oneself for this revelation and make room 
for it, one must first renounce and expel all opinions and beliefs 
in which the mind has been already engaged and steeped, and 
approach truth with an understanding naked and cleansed and 
humbly submissive. Having fought and won this point and having 
converted people into something like the Academics and Pyr- 
rhonians, one should bring forward the principles of Christianity, 
as delivered to us from Heaven, brought us by its Ambassador, 
completely assured of divine authority and confirmed at the time 
by so many miraculous proofs and undeniable witnesses. ^^ 

Thus Charron reconciled his book to the Faith and to his own con- 
science; but the faithful feared the treatise as seductively pagan, 
and left it to the esprits forts. ^^ 

The tradition and influence of Montaigne continue in the writ- 
ings of Fran9ois La Mothe Le Vayer (1583-1672), an intimate 
friend of Mile, de Gournay, Montaigne's adopted daughter. In 
1630 he published five Dialogues fails a V imitation des anciens under 
the pseudonym of Orasius Tubero, followed in the next year by 
four more. They are at the same time libertine and fideistic. Le 
Vayer had read both Montaigne and Sextus Empiricus, and a 
whole library besides. His references are encyclopedic. But all 
his reading only convinced him more firmly of the futility and error 
of scientific dogmatism, including moral legislation and specula- 
tion. The familiar accent of Montaigne is recognizable at once: 

After the Emperor Claudius had taken his niece Agrippina in 
marriage, incest was declared permissible by the Senate. -And we 
are forced to admit that what is incest in our day was innocence 
in the early age of the world. The voyages of Americo Vespuccio 
have informed us that in all the West Indies no regard was paid 
in this matter to' blood relationship; Marco Polo maintains the 
same concerning the East Indies; and the Druses of Lebanon still 
live in this manner. As for the alleged observance of any such 
restriction by animals, we see every day that dogs, cats, and other 
such animals demonstrate the contrary. ^^^ 

•"'6 Trans, from Petit traite (Paris, 1646), pp. 46-48. 

^ See Fortunat Strowski, Pascal et son temps (Paris, 1907), 1, 159 ff.; and F. T. 
Perrens, Les Libertins en France au XVIl^ siecle, 2d ed. (Paris, 1899), pp. 61-67. 
38 Trans, from Dialogues (Frankfort, 1716), I, 157. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 37 

Thus the Law of Nature and of Nations, which enjoyed such high 
authority in ethics and poHtics in the seventeenth century, is dis- 
sipated into a chimera. But Revelation must not be subjected to 
this sort of comparative study; the role of skepticism ends when 
it has led us to the portals of faith. 

As for the charge that the Skeptical Philosophy is incompatible 
with Christianity, I am so far from yielding in any way to this 
slander that I glory in having led my mind and understanding to 
what would best prepare it for our true religion and render it capa- 
ble of the mysteries of our faith. It must be understood that when 
we deny the verity and certitude which each practitioner wants 
to assert for his own science, and that by this denial we make all 
sciences suspect of vanity and deceit, we nevertheless say nothmg 
prejudicial to our Christian Theology; although it also may some- 
times improperly and after a fashion be denominated a science, 
still the most holy Doctors agree on the point that it is not really 
a science such as would require clear and evident principles from 
our understanding, in matters on which it derives almost all its 
principles from the mysteries of our faith, which is truly a gift from 
God, far surpassing the reach of the human mind. That is why, 
although in the sciences we accept easily the evidence for the prin- 
ciples known by our intellect, in our Theology we assent to divine 
principles by the direction of our will alone, which submits itself to 
God in all matters, in which submission consists the merit ot the 
Christian Faith. ^^ 

In reading these disciples of Sextus Empiricus one is frequently 
led to recall the Nominalist doctrine that truth is not derived from 
Eternal Reason in God, but from His mysterious and incalculable 
will, and therefore is not subject to argument or reducible to any 
intellectual system.'*" 

Le Vayer was a heavy writer and of the second rank at best; 
oblivion has overtaken his once famous work. But the next name 
in the succession of Montaigne is illustrious; Pascal was a brilliantly 
original genius. His Pensees, published posthumously in 1670, has 
always ranked as a classic of religious literature, and in the mind 

39 Ibid., pp. 332-333- 

^° Mention may be made of the posthumous Traiu philosophique de lafaiblesse 
de r esprit humain (1723), by Daniel Huet (1630-1721), bishop of Avranches. It is 
fideistic without any tendency toward libertine thought. But it conies too late to 
have any significance for this study. 

38 The Milieu of John Dry den 

of the modern reading public stands apart as something unique. 
His insight and feeling, his profundity, and his power of disturbing 
our most secret complacencies are his own. But, although he was 
not, like Montaigne and Le Vayer, conspicuously a man of books, 
he was nevertheless, by virtue of two important facts, definitely a 
product of the tradition we have been following: he was a disciple 
of Montaigne, and his religious orientation was in the Jansenist, 
that is, in the Augustinian, tradition. The stern spiritual disci- 
pline to which Pascal, in his Jansenist fervor, submitted himself, 
shielded him from the libertine tendencies in Montaigne. What 
attracted him to the Essays was the humility, the confession of 
ignorance, the psychological demonstration of the nullity of man, 
all of which accorded perfectly with the Jansenist doctrine of 
Grace. Montaigne's easy and mundane reduction of man to the 
level of animals was not, except in tone, inharmonious with the 
Augustinian view of the depravity of man. Though the Jansenists 
themselves were not Pyrrhonists, their greatest disciple had no dif- 
ficulty in engrafting skepticism upon their characteristic doctrines. 
But what he borrowed from Montaigne was also transformed. He 
borrowed Montaigne's description of human nature, but not his 
complacent acceptance of the humiliating facts; doubt was not 
for Pascal a soft pillow, but a bed of suffering; he was intensely 
aware of the miseries of humanity, miseries in which he perceived 
also the grandeur of man above all creation. In suffering, he be- 
lieved, the religious experience has its origin; in the miserable 
man divine grace may operate, to exalt and purify and sanctify. 
Such ministration to minds diseased was a phenomenon not very 
closely studied by Montaigne. Pascal raises in his readers the 
profoundest inquietudes, but he is also tenderly cautious not to 
leave them in despair. "It is equally dangerous," he says, *'to 
man to know God without knowing his own wretchedness, and 
to know his own wretchedness without knowing God." ^^ 

It is no doubt necessary to speak with caution of the Pyrrho- 
nism of Pascal; he was also a mathematician and physicist, and 
a born dialectician. A great scientist and reasoner is not likely 
to disavow completely his own distinguished powers. Pascal in- 

** Penseesy trans. W. F. Trotter, Everyman's Library (London, 193 1), p. 162. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 39 

deed recognized that reason has its place even in religion, but its 
dominion is not universal. "If we submit everything to reason, 
our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element. 
If we offend the principles of reason, our religion will be absurd 
and ridiculous." ^"^ Even the submission of reason in religion should 
be a rational submission: "Reason would never submit, if it did 
not judge that there are some occasions on which it ought to sub- 
mit. It is then right for it to submit, when it judges that it ought 
to submit. . . . There is nothing so conformable to reason as this 
disavowal of reason." ^^ Notwithstanding such passages, we are 
justified in including Pascal among the fideists, most certainly, and 
in a general sense also among the Pyrrhonists. How thoroughly 
he had assimilated the argument of the Apology for Raymond 
Sebond is evident in the Entretien avec M. de Saci. And although 
he must have discarded promptly many of the naivetes which figure 
so largely in the dialectic of Montaigne, his use of Pyrrhonism 
as a preparation to faith is essentially the method of his master. 
In his religious philosophy Pascal was neither a rationalist nor an 
intellectualist; he did not submit his faith to the authority of 
reason, nor did he think it possible to systematize it by force of 
intellect. His anti-rationalism in the higher levels of his thought 
becomes at once clearer if he is contrasted with Descartes, or with 
such a Cartesian as Malebranche. Pascal found fault with Des- 
cartes for wanting to think always as a geometrician, even when 
establishing philosophical truths in support of religion. To raise 
such a structure Pascal regarded as base flattery of the human 
reason, and as providing atheists with a false and an easily attacked 
conception of a religion which, in fact, does not pretend to be either 
clear or rational or demonstrable by argument. In the Scriptures, 
cries Pascal, God is called Deus absconditus. To perceive how 
strikingly opposite Pascal's thought was to Cartesianism, one has 
only to open the Traite de morale by Malebranche, published 
fourteen years after the Pensees: 

The Reason which enlightens man is the JVord or the wisdom 
of God himself. . . . The Reason I speak of is intallible, immutable, 

« Ihid., p. 78. " Ihid., pp. 77-78. 

40 The Milieu of John Dryden 

incorruptible. It should always govern; God himself observes it. 
. . . Evidence, intelligence, is better than faith. For faith is passing, 
but intelligence endures eternally.'''' 

The doctrine of the Logos, one of the most fertile and ascendent 
in Christian thought, was not incorporated into Pascal's projected 
apology for Christianity; one wonders what his commentary 
would have been on the opening of the Fourth Gospel. The fact 
seems incontrovertible, however one may choose to qualify the 
statement of it, that Pascal belongs in the tradition of Pyrrhonism. 

Except Pascal, these French writers had, to a greater or less 
extent, also an audience in England and contributed to the pagan 
culture, the cynicism, the naturalistic ethics which gradually were 
diffused throughout English society, at least in the upper strata, 
before 1660. Their influence is traceable in the English literature 
of the time. But their peculiar fideistic argument seems not to 
have appealed widely to Englishmen of the early seventeenth 
century. The Anglican Church did not take a position which could 
be easily defended with the weapons of Pyrrhonism; it was at this 
time becoming more and more rationalistic. The Apology for 
Raymond Sebond and Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity represent two 
divergent and irreconcilable types of religious thought. Among 
English Catholics, as will be seen in a later chapter, there developed 
a tradition of fideistic apologetics, but its influence was not great 
in the early part of the century. 

It is therefore an occasion for surprise when we find one An- 
glican, Sir Thomas Browne, writing in his Religio Medici on the 
subject of Christian skepticism. But Browne did not pretend to 
anything official; he had merely written a private confession of 
faith, which he was forced to publish in 1643 because of previous 
unauthorized printings from an imperfect manuscript copy. His 
little book, he explained in the preface, was **a private Exercise 
directed to my self" and ''what is delivered therein, was rather a 
memorial unto me, than an Example or Rule unto any other." 

'^^ Trans, from Traite de morale, ed. Henri Joly (Paris, 1882), pp. 1, 20. 

The Traditions oj Skepticism 41 

The book immediately had a great vogue, not only in England, 
but on the Continent, where in a Latin translation it was appre- 
ciated for its substance rather than its style. It was no nine days' 
wonder; twenty years later a friend of Pepys declared that "in all 
his life these three books were the most esteemed and generally 
cried up for wit in the world — Religio Mediciy Osborne's Advice 
to a Sofiy and HudibrasJ' ^^ During the latter half of the century 
the book received the flattery of a host of imitative titles, among 
them Religio Laid, which is related to it in substance as well as in 

Browne's basic skepticism as well as his informal essay style is 
suggestive of Montaigne.^® He had che easy tolerance, the distrust 
of reasoning, the sense of the fluidity of opinion, which character- 
ized the author of the Essays. He was content with his own re- 
ligion, and content to let others retain theirs. "I could never 
divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion, or 
be angry with his judgement for not agreeing with me in that from 
which perhaps within a few days I should dissent myself." ^^ Dis- 
putes and arguments, Browne thought, are no more reliable than 
pitched battles in settling doubtful points. "A man may be in as 
just possession of Truth as of a City, and yet be forced to surrender; 
'tis therefore far better to enjoy her with peace than to hazard her 
on a battle." This unheroic attitude was not due to timidity, but 
to a conviction that truth had little to do with reason. 

We do but learn to-day, what our better advanced judgements 
will unteach to-morrow; and Aristotle doth but instruct us, as 
Plato did him; that is, to confute himself. I have run through all 
sorts, yet find no r.est in any: though our first studies and ju7iior 
endeavours may style us Peripateticks, Stoicks, or Academicks, 

*^ Pepys, Diary, Jan. 27, 1664. 

^ Joseph Texte, "La Descendance de Montaigne," Etudes de litterature furo- 
peenne (Paris, 1898), pp. 51-93. In a manuscript note, preserved in the British 
Museum, Browne disavowed any obligations to Montaigne: "... when I penned 
that piece I had never read these leaves in that author, and scarce any more ever 
since." Quoted in Sir Thomas Browne's JVorks, ed. Simon Wilkin (London, 1S35), 
II, 10, n. 6. But direct obligations need not be insisted on; such striking similarity 
without direct influence is in itself an evidence of the dissemination and vitality 
of the tradition of thought represented by both writers. 

*^ Works, ed. Charles Sayle (London, 1904), I, 12. 

42 The Milieu of John Dryden 

yet I perceive the wisest heads prove, at last, almost all Scepticks, 
and stand like Janus in the field of knowledge.^^ 

Our life is bounded on every side by the unknowable. The wisest 
understandings are tormented by unanswerable doubts, and we 
are unable to know one another, nay even ourselves. *'No man 
can justly censure or condemn another, because indeed no man 
truly knows another. This I perceive in myself; for I am in the 
dark to all the world and my nearest friends behold me but in a 
cloud." **Our ends are as obscure as our beginnings; the line of 
our days is drawn by night, and the various effects therein by a 
pencil that is invisible.^^ 

But Browne, true to the tradition of Montaigne, disciplines 
and humiliates his insubordinate reason only that Faith may rise 
triumphant. Within his own nature he observes a constant feud 
between passion, reason, and faith. "As the Propositions of Faith 
seem absurd unto Reason, so the Theorems of Reason unto Passion, 
and both unto Faith." Reason is constantly raising objections, 
demanding explanations: perhaps the combustion of Gomorrah 
was due to "an asphaltic and bituminous nature" of the lake; 
manna is now plentiful in Calabria, and where then was the 
miracle of the days of Moses .f* But these attempts to rationalize 
our knowledge, by seducing our reason, weaken our faith. It is 
better to remain in our ignorance and believe, than to strive for 
that knowledge which would make belief unnecessary. "The 
Devil played at Chess with me, and yielding a Pawn, thought to 
gain a Queen of me, taking advantage of my honest endeavours; 
and whilst I laboured to raise the structure of my Reason, he 
strived to undermine the edifice of my Faith." ^ Browne coun- 
tered his artful adversary; he undermined his own reason, so that 
he might raise freely the structure of his faith. 

Since I was of understanding to know we knew nothing [he 
says], my reason hath been more pliable to the will of Faith; I am 
now content to understand a mystery without a rigid definition, 
in an easie and Platonick decription. That allegorical decription 
oi Hermes y pleaseth me beyond all the Metaphysical definitions of 
Divines; where I cannot satisfie my reason, I love to humour my 

" Works, ed. Charles Sayle, I, 99. *' Ibid.y pp. 91, 62. ^ Ibid., pp. 31-32. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 43 

fancy. . . . Where there is an obscurity too deep for our Reason, 
*tis good to sit down with a description, periphrasis, or adum- 
bration; for by acquainting our Reason how unable it is to display 
the visible and obvious effects of nature, it becomes more humble 
and submissive unto the subtleties of Faith; and thus I teach my 
haggard and unreclaimed reason to stoop to the lure of Faith. . . . 
And this I think is no vulgar part of Faith, to believe a thing not 
only above, but contrary to Reason, and against the Arguments 
of our proper Senses.^^ 

In this state of mind, faith becomes easy, it surmounts every diffi- 
culty. **Methinks there be not impossibilities enough in Religion 
for an active faith. ... I love to lose my self in a mystery, to pur- 
sue my Reason to an altitudo!'* Scornfully Browne says that 
" 'tis an easy and necessary belief to credit what our eye and sense 
hath examined.'' ^^ 

Such was the philosophical part of Browne's confession of faith, 
which the wits of the time of Charles II read so eagerly, along with 
Butler's burlesque of the Puritans and the grossly cynical and 
opportunistic Advice to a Son. They were all, according to Pepys' 
friend, cried up for their *'wit." The age loved paradoxes better 
than either philosophical systems or devotional treatises; and 
Browne was preeminently a man of wit and paradoxes. His con- 
fession of faith was not read as a devotional book, neither did it 
contribute to the scientific and philosophical enlightenment of the 
century. Notwithstanding his scientific training in medicine, his 
intellect was neither independent nor accurate nor critical. It 
cannot be distinguished from his temperament, so completely is it 
led, turned, directed into devious ways by the demand of his im- 
agination and emotion. Browne is not read for his insight and 
wisdom, as Pascal is, but only for the charming naivete of his genial 
self-revelation, the splendor and sublimity of his imagination, and 
the quaint beauty of his style. He is for us preeminently a humour- 
ist, in the older meaning of the word. 

If Browne was not forward-looking in intellect, it was not be- 
cause he misunderstood the spirit of his century. In an interesting 
passage in his Christian Morals he refers to the enlightenment of 
his time: 

" Ibid., pp. 17-18. " Ibid.y pp. 16-17. 

44 The Milieu of John Dryden 

Let thy Studies [he writes] be as free as thy Thoughts and Con- 
templations: but fly not only upon the wings of Imagination; 
Joyn Sense unto Reason, and Experiment unto Speculation, and 
so give life unto Embryon Truths, and Verities yet in their Chaos. 
There is nothing more acceptable unto the Ingenious World, than 
this noble Eluctation of Truth; wherein, against the tenacity of 
Prejudice and Prescription, this Century now prevaileth. What 
Libraries of new Volumes aftertimes will behold, and in what a 
new World of Knowledge the eyes of our posterity may be happy, 
a few Ages may joyfully declare.^^ 

But his own studies flew upon the wings of the imagination, and 
his haggard and unreclaimed reason followed submissively. He 
passed easily and lightly from conjecture to conjecture, surmount- 
ing every difl&culty merely by the aid of a ** surely'' or a "no 
doubt." When he had observed how generally the ancients planted 
their gardens in the pattern of the quincunx, he had great desire 
to pursue the antiquity of this mystical design to its origin, per- 
haps in the first Paradise: 

And if it were clear that this was used by Noah after the Floud, 
I could easily beleeve it was in use before it; Not willing to fix such 
ancient inventions no higher original then Noah; Nor readily con- 
ceiving those aged Heroes, whose diet was vegetable, and only, or 
chiefly consisted in the fruits of the earth, were much deficient in 
their splendid cultivations; or after the experience of fifteen hun- 
dred years, left much for future discovery in Botanical Agriculture.^ 

Such scholarship was whimsical already in the seventeenth cen- 
tury, the age of Casaubon and Selden. And in philosophy and 
divinity, as well, Browne's intellect but served his predilections. 
His belief in immortality, he said, had been *' instructed" by the 
"smattering I have of the Philosophers Stone," and by "those 
strange and mystical transmigrations that I have observed in Silk- 
worms.^^ He believed in the resurrection because without a belief 
in a future life he was unable to withstand temptation.^^ His way 
of thinking was that ancient one which in our time has been given 
the name pragmatic: "In Bivious Theorems and /^nwj-faced 
Doctrines," he writes in Christian Morals, "let Virtuous considera- 

" Works, ed. Charles Sayle, III, 470. " Ibid., pp. 153-154. 

« Ibid., I, 58. M 7^,-^,^ p, Sy. 

The Traditions of Skepticism 45 

tions state the determination. Look upon Opinions as thou dost 
upon the Moon, and chuse not the dark hemisphere for thy con- 
templation. Embrace not the opacous and blind side of Opinions, 
but that which looks most Luciferously or influentially unto Good- 
ness." " Thoroughly characteristic of him is that passage in 
Religio Medici where, beginning with confessed doubt and igno- 
rance, he is nevertheless, as the discussion proceeds, able to satisfy 
himself regarding not only the existence of spirits, but even the 
scholastic definition of their nature. ^^ 

With his reason thus bound in servitude Browne let his faith 
and imagination build him a universe to live in, a universe filled 
primarily with the wonderful. It was constructed to satisfy the 
longings, whimsicalities, even weaknesses, of the heart and soul of 
Browne. Without skepticism no one may enter into it, but once 
past the charmed portal one must be all credulity. It is the world 
of the imagination, with something of the fascination and unreality 
of a fairy story. There is no questioning the sincerity of Browne, 
who lived in a credulous age, when the gravest and most thoughtful 
men might believe, not only in tutelar spirits and the resurrection, 
but in witches. Neither may we suspect him of any intention of 
heresy or dissent; he regarded himself as completely in accord with 
the Anglican Church. But his distinction was that he saw all 
things with the eyes of wonder. He nourished his emotions and 
imagination chiefly upon the mystery of this world and the invisi- 
ble which transcends it, and his thirty years of commonplace life 
seemed to him nothing less than a miracle. If, as Donne had said, 
all divinity is love and wonder,^^ Browne knew half of divinity; 
all the world to him was wonder. But it is not so certain that he 
would have understood all that Donne meant by 'Move." For 
with all his faith and imagination and charity, the genial and lov- 
able Browne lacked intensity in his personal life. He had none of 
Donne's ^'hydroptic, immoderate desires" after learning or wis- 
dom; he never experienced any such revealing spiritual crisis as 
Pascal, who knew so much better both "les grandeurs et miseres 

" Ibid., Ill, 483. M Ibid., I, 48-50. 

^9 John Donne, Poetical Works, ed. H.J. C. Grierson (Oxford, 191 2), I, 30. Cf. 
pp. 81 and 248. 

46 The Milieu of John Dryden 

de rhomme." Such intensity of feeling, a longing for the comfort 
of finding one's weary and broken soul precious in the sight of 
God, is implied in Donne's definition of divinity as love and 
wonder. Browne's religion was free from this strain and effort; 
he solved his problems by the gentle method of dreaming medi- 
tation. He played his game with the Devil and won by a paradox. 
And as he rose to bid adieu, he must have imagined that he saw 
in the features of his bewildered adversary an involuntary smile 
of surprise and admiration. 


i The revival of materialism ii Hobbes iii The recourse to Pyrrho- 
nism iv Dryden and Hobbes v Dryden and the Royal Society 

EVEN the brief and fragmentary survey of skeptical thought 
attempted in the preceding chapter has indicated to some 
degree how widely it was disseminated and to what diverse pur- 
poses it could be applied. More in particular, it appears from the 
illustrative passages, which were chosen with special reference to 
the religious thought of Dryden, that the poet's approach to re- 
ligion was thoroughly traditional, and that Religio Laid belongs 
historically rather to Roman Catholic than to Anglican apologetics. 
But at the present stage in our study such conclusions can be only 
general impressions, to be examined and documented more care- 
fully in later chapters. It should also be regarded as a reasonable 
assumption — though the evidence for this will accumulate as we 
proceed — that Dryden actually came in contact with these skep- 
tical developments; he could hardly have avoided it. They per- 
meated English thought after the Restoration. Montaigne, whose 
rambling Essays began to appear old-fashioned and inartistic to 
the contemporaries of Racine and Boileau, arrived at the same 
period at the height. of his reputation in England.^ Charron and 
Sextus could be read in English translation; Religio Medici was 
universally admired. The classics of the skeptical tradition found 
a responsive public and gave the intellectual tone to the conver- 
sation of the wits. 

Such a professed adherent of skepticism as Dryden must have 
been interested in these manifestations of Pyrrhonism, which were 
all about him. But the problem is very difficult, in the case of 

^ Pierre Villey, "Montaigne en Angleterre," Revue des deux mondes. 6 Per., 
Vol. XVII (1913). 


48 The Milieu of John Dry den 

such an allusive and unsystematic writer, to determine which of 
these manifestations most influenced him, and precisely in what 
sequence. Dryden lived before the age of confessions, and he never 
troubled to enlighten his readers regarding his own intellectual 
history. Only after he had turned fifty did he unveil his mind and 
address the public directly, in his poems on politics and religion. 
By what paths he arrived at his final intellectual destination, to 
what influences he was subjected on the way, can be learned only 
from his scattered and casual references to them, and only by in- 
terpreting these in terms of the movement of ideas in his own age. 
Such documentary evidence for his intellectual biography as can 
be gleaned from his own writings must be explained and completed 
by a study of his intellectual milieu. Not until we understand 
fully the various implications of ideas as they presented themselves 
to Dryden, can we appreciate his reactions to them and pass judg- 
ment on his consistency and significance. 

Inasmuch as our method will be to place Dryden's thought in 
its context in the thought of his period, it seems necessary to pro- 
ceed by considering one by one the various aspects of it, rather 
than by attempting a comprehensive treatment of all aspects in a 
strict chronological order such as is, moreover, in his case often 
out of the question. We shall therefore seek to define his intellec- 
tual cast and temperament by determining what choices and pref- 
erences he made among the tendencies of his age, studying in 
succession his relation to scientific, religious, and political thought. 
Such an analysis and presentation of Dryden^s ideas must of course 
not be supposed to correspond to ''periods" in his life. All the 
developments here treated successively were going on simultane- 
ously in his mind, were in fact interrelated; and each section of 
this study must be supplemented by the others to make the por- 
trait of Dryden's mind complete. 

It is perhaps because Dryden has not been credited with real 
intellectual character that students of him have so generally neg- 
lected his connection with the Royal Society and his attitude 
toward the new science of his time. They have, of course, included 
in their biographical narratives the fact that he was chosen a mem- 
ber of the newly organized Society on November 19, 1662, and ad- 

The Crisis of the New Science 49 

mitted at the next meeting, November 26; but with no significance 
attached except that Dryden must at this time have enjoyed the 
social status of a gentleman.^ As to any intellectual sympathy 
with the new movement, comment has been meager and conflict- 
ing; Christie declares that Dryden "had no accurate knowledge" 
of science, whereas Scott, more generously but equally without 
documentation, says that ''Dryden, who through life was attached 
to experimental philosophy, speedily associated himself with those 
who took interest in its progress." In an elaborate study of the 
new science in relation to literature,^ Mr. Carson S. Duncan has 
been cursory, but severe, in his treatment of Dryden. Although 
he found that the poet had introduced here and there some im- 
agery derived from science — thus obeying, says Mr. Duncan, 
"the injunction of Bishop Sprat"'* — yet he found also imagery 
drawn from such sources as astrology or the Ptolemaic astronomy. 
"From all which," concluded Mr. Duncan, "it follows that Dry- 
den was not deeply impressed with the new philosophy. It seems 
never to have occurred to him that it was a serious matter to know 
the truth about nature, or at least to be consistent about its repre- 
sentation." "Dryden was practically unaflFected by the new intel- 
lectual impulse." ^ As for the sources of his poetic imagery, Dryden 
went all his life to both the new and the old science. But he would 
probably have defended the latter as he does the supernatural in 
poetry, by an appeal to folklore. "It is enough that, in all ages 
and religions, the greatest part of mankind has believed the power 
of magic, and that there are spirits or spectres which have appeared. 
This, I say, is foundation enough for poetry." ^ Without raising 

2 Edmond Malone, Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works of John Dryden, 
I (1800), 49-50; Sir Walter Scott, Life of Dryden, in Works, I, 46-47; \V. D. 
Christie, "Memoir" in the Globe edition oi Poetical Works, p. xxv; J. Churton Col- 
lins, Essays and Studies (1895), p. 18. Saintsbury, in his volume in the "English 
Men of Letters," does not even mention Dryden's membership in the Royal 

^ The New Science and English Literature in the Classical Period (Menasha, 
Wis., 1913). 

* See Thomas Sprat, History of the Royal Society, Part III, sec. xxxv (2d ed., 
1702), pp. 413-419- 

^ Duncan, of. cit.^ pp. 43-45 and 179. 

^ Essay on Heroic Plays, in Works, IV, 

1 -> 

50 The Milieu of John Dryden 

further, therefore, the question of Dryden's knowledge of science 
as shown in his metaphors and similes, we shall here approach 
more directly the larger question whether or not "Dryden was 
practically unaffected by the new intellectual impulse," or whether 
he at least possessed any characteristic attitudes or ideas which 
might indicate sympathetic interest in the Royal Society and the 

First of all, there are two common errors to be avoided in de- 
fining the intellectual impulse of the new science. One is to de- 
scribe it as mainly Baconian in nature, as merely collection and 
classification of specimens. Bacon's prestige with the Royal 
Society and his great influence in fostering the inductive method 
must of course be admitted. The scientists of the seventeenth 
century were his disciples in their respect for facts and their sus- 
picion of hasty generalization; the gentlemen virtuosi collected 
rarities with truly Baconian zeal. But the most significant element 
of the new science was not to be found in these collectors' cabinets, 
so frequently ridiculed in the literature of the time; neither is it 
to be found in the works of Bacon. The new philosophy of science, 
or, as it was then called, the "new philosophy of motion," was the 
result of the application of mathematics to physics and astronomy; 
and Bacon had entirely ignored mathematics. "In this respect," 
says Whitehead, "Bacon completely missed the tonality which lay 
behind the success of seventeenth century science. Science was 
becoming, and has remained, primarily quantitative." ^ 

It is also a mistake to suppose that the profoundest eflPect of the 
Copernican system upon general ideas was the shift of the center of 
the universe from the earth to the sun. The shock of this revela- 

^ Mr. Claude Lloyd, in an article on "John Dryden and the Royal Society," 
Publications of the Modern Language Association, XLV (1930), 967-976, called 
attention to the fact that Dryden did not pay his dues to the Society and was 
consequently dropped from membership in 1666. Mr. Lloyd accordingly con- 
cluded that "there is little need to attempt to reconcile Dryden's 'scientific' 
beliefs with those of the scientists of his day." Such a conclusion makes some 
unwarranted assumptions, and, moreover, contradicts the utterances of Dryden 
himself. See the correspondence evoked by his article in the same Publications, 
XLVI (1931), 951-962. 

' A. N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York, 1925), p. 66. 

The Crisis of the New Science 51 

tion, great as it had been at first, was not keenly felt in England, 
at least, after 1660. And during the process of popularizing the 
heliocentric theory other problems of deeper and more permanent 
import emerged and became the real storm center. These deeper 
problems, again, were the result of the application of mathematics 
to astronomy and physics. 

The development of mathematics and its triumphant appli- 
cation to the phenomena of motion constitutes undoubtedly one 
of the greatest revolutions in the history of thought. It has so 
completely permeated even the "common sense" view of the world 
of the average modern man that only by effort can we understand 
the conception of motion which preceded it. The medieval inter- 
pretation was animistic. The Middle Ages asked the question, 
^^ Why do bodies move.?" And their answer was that they move 
because they have a desire to. Gravitation is due to each thing 
seeking its appropriate place; nature abhors a vacuum; Kepler, 
in his Mysterium cosmographicum (1597), explained that planets 
move because they have "moving souls" {animae motrices); ^ Gil- 
bert described the magnetic force he had discovered as "of the 
nature of soul, surpassing the soul of man"; Harvey believed that 
the motion of the heart and blood is due to "innate heat," which 
is not fire nor derived from fire; and the blood, he said, is not oc- 
cupied by a spirit, but is a spirit, "celestial in nature, the soul, that 
which answers to the essence of the stars . . . something analogous 
to heaven, the instrument of heaven." ^° Medieval thought sought 
for the essence of motion as an answer to the question zvhy bodies 
move. As a matter of fact, the new science of the seventeenth 
century did not answer this question, but only deprived it of its 
interest. The new science demonstrated that all motion is regular 
and mathematically measurable, and thenceforth the real question 
became, *'How do bodies move.?" Thus Kepler, after many years 
of astronomical calculations, ultimately rejected his " moving souls " 
as unnecessary. The seventeenth century, as a period in the de- 
velopment of thought, is particularly notable for its many geniuses 
in the related fields of mathematics, physics, and astronomy, who 

' H. HofFding, History of Modern Philosophy (London, 1900), I, 168-169. 
^° T. C. Albutt, Science and Medieval Thought (London, 1901), pp. 41 ff. 

52 The Milieu of John Dry den 

by a vast cooperative effort added stone to stone in this new philo- 
sophic structure, until Newton completed it, a new universe of 
cause and effect, a vast machine, whose every mystery must be 
amenable to the laws of mathematics.^^ 

Thus arose in a new and much more perplexing and dangerous 
form the ancient problem of materialism. Even Descartes felt 
constrained to regard living organisms as machines, although he of 
course admitted that man has also a "rational soul,'* and thus es- 
tablished the famous and influential Cartesian dualism. But there 
were many who accepted the mechanical theory without adding 
to it this idealistic superstructure which contradicted it. Hence 
the great popularity in the seventeenth century of the atomistic 
philosophy of Democritus, Epicurus, and Lucretius, who not only 
affected the general tone of sophisticated society by stimulating 
"libertine" thought, but influenced as well the new science. ^^ The 
French philosopher Gassendi combined ancient atomism with the 
new science of his own day, thereby preparing for Newton's re- 
jection of the vortex theory of Descartes and the foundation of 
modern atomism. Voltaire, in his Elements of the Philosophy of 
Newton, pointed out, probably not without some malicious satis- 
faction, the great prestige and importance, in the eyes of the pious 
Newton, of the materialistic ancient atheists and their modern 

Newton followed the ancient opinions of Democritus, Epicurus, 
and a multitude of philosophers rectified by our celebrated Gas- 
sendi. Newton has several times said to some Frenchmen still 
living that he considered Gassendi a very upright and enlightened 
mind, and that he prided himself on being entirely on his side in 
all matters on which they had discoursed. ^^ 

^^ See W. Whewell, History of the Inductive Sciences (London, 1837), and 
Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (London, 1840); E. A. Burtt, The Metaphysical 
Foundations of Modern Physical Science (1925), with Bibliography; A. J. Snow, 
Matter and Gravity in Newton s Physical Philosophy (1926), with Bibliography; 
also the volumes by Whitehead and Albutt referred to in notes 8 and 10. 

'2 See F. A. Lange, History of Materialism (Eng. trans., Boston, 1877); Kurd 
Lasswitz, Geschichte der Atomistik (Hamburg, 1890); L. Mabilleau, Histoire de la 
philosophie atomistique (Pans, 1895). 

^^ Trans, from a quotation by Lange, op. cit., I, 267, n. 12. Gassendi was not 
in fact an atheist, but outside scientific circles he was regarded with suspicion, 
and the "libertines" appealed to his authority. 

The Crisis of the New Science 53 

The materialistic implications of the new science, however, were 
generally received much more hospitably among lay gentlemen, 
such as cultivated the gay cynicism of ** libertine" thought, than 
among professional men of science. On the other hand, those mem- 
bers of the Royal Society who were doing significant scientific 
work were also pious men who held dear that religious and idealis- 
tic tradition which their scientific work was putting on the defen- 
sive. From this dilemma sprang much of the characteristic thought 
not only of the seventeenth century, but of the modern era. As 
Whitehead says, "The history 01 thought in the eighteenth and 
nineteenth centuries is governed by the fact that the world had 
got hold of a general idea which it could neither live with nor live 
without." ^^ But the apologetics of the Royal Society will be un- 
derstood better if we first consider Hobbes, the most distinguished 
and the most uncompromising of the contemporary adherents of 
the dreaded materialism. 


The mental history of Hobbes is typical of the mathematical 
and physical preoccupations of the seventeenth century. His 
philosophical awakening came at the age of forty, when he acci- 
dentally opened a book of Euclid and became enchanted by the 
certainty of mathematical demonstration. Along with Euclid he 
studied Galileo, from whom, it appears, he derived his fundamental 
mechanical theory, which he proceeded to apply both to the world 
and to man.^^ Science is the study of causes, but all causes are 
ultimately reducible to motion. A complete science should begin 
with a study of simple motions, then proceed to more complex 
motions in geometry, thence to physics, until we reach the most 
complex motions in "moral philosophy, in which we are to con- 
sider the motions of the mind . . . what causes they have, and of 
what they be causes." ^^ To complete his scheme, Hobbes also 
insisted that the soul is material, a sort of thin, filmy substance, 

" Whitehead, op. cit., p. 74. 

^* W. R. Sorley, History of English Philosophy (Cambridge, 1920), pp. 49-50. 
But this early indebtedness to Galileo has been questioned by Frithiof Brandt, 
Den mekaniske Naturopfattelse hos Thomas Hobbes (Copenhagen, 1921), pp. 72-81. 

^® Elements of Philosophy, Part I, Chap. VI, especially sees. 5-6 in English 
Works, ed. Sir W. Molesworth, I, 131-132. 

54 The Milieu of John Dryden 

which could thus be assumed to be a part of the mechanical world. 
The customary theological definition of soul as "incorporeal sub- 
stance'* he ridiculed as meaningless. The soul, he said, has dimen- 
sion as the body has, though he admitted it has no color. In 
response to his theological critics, Hobbes declared himself willing 
to accept on faith such] incomprehensible beings as God and the 
angels, though he suggested with fine irony that "the Scripture 
favoureth them more, that hold angels and spirits corporeal, than 
them that hold the contrary." ^^ 

In spite of this thoroughgoing mechanistic view of the world, 
Hobbes always professed himself a Christian and a submissive ad- 
herent of the Church of England as by law established. Obedience 
to authority, he said, is the cardinal virtue in political and ecclesi- 
astical matters. But it was well understood already by his con- 
temporaries that under this outward acceptance of Christianity 
he attempted to conceal a nature in which the religious instincts 
remained undeveloped. His reaction was significant when early 
in his philosophical career he was asked for comments on Des- 
cartes's Discours. His own mechanical and materialistic philoso- 
phy was already definitely formulated, and he opposed it to the 
idealism of Descartes. His manner was as tart as his reasoning 
was keen; he reduced the whole spiritualistic philosophy to cor- 
poreal motion, "et ainsi Tesprit ne sera rien autre chose qu'un 
mouvement en certaines parties du corps organique." ^^ Since both 
men were irritated by their mutual lack of sympathy, their re- 
lations never passed beyond an acquaintance. And the philosophy 
of Descartes, which had so much in common with Plato, Augustine, 
and Anselm, became for half a century in England one of the most 
trusted modes of escape from Hobbism and materialism, especially 
among the Cambridge Platonists and the members of the Royal 

For Hobbism spread rapidly, and after 1650 the philosopher of 
Malmesbury, already past sixtyj became for nearly thirty years 
more the center of a storm of controversy which reverberated 

" Human NaturCy Chap. XI, sees. 2-5; ed. cited, IV, 59-62. 
^8 Descartes, Troisiemes objections contre Us Meditationsy in (Euvus, ed. Jules 
Simon, pp. 198-199. 

The Crisis of the New Science 55 

throughout Europe. That he had many friends and disciples is 
certain, although some of the names in the long list given by his 
friend John Aubrey are open to suspicion. ^^ His popularity with 
Charles II and the court was a thorn in the side of his enemies, 
though it does not appear to have rested entirely on a philosoph- 
ical basis: 

Order was given that he should have free accesse to his majesty, 
who was always much delighted in his witt and smart repartees. 
The witts at Court were wont to bayte him. But he feared none 
of them, and would make his part good. The king would call him 
the beare: **Here comes the beare to be bayted!" ^ 

But he enjoyed also the friendship and esteem of such men of letters 
as Davenant and Waller, and even of Cowley, a member of the 
Royal Society.^^ On the whole, however, his disciples seem to have 
been more ready to talk than to write, and his great vogue is best 
apparent from the number, the seriousness, and the persistence of 
his opponents. 

Hobbes fought indeed alone against all the leading thinkers of 
his time. Already in 1645 he had entered upon a long controversy 
with Bishop Bramhall on free-will and necessitarianism.^^ The 
Cambridge Platonists attacked from various points of view the 
"mechanic" philosophy of Hobbes. Of these the most important 
were Ralph Cudworth and Henry More, both of them members of 
the Royal Society and both declared adherents of the new science. 
More had said already in 1647 that "it is plain to any man that is 
not prejudic'd" that Galileo's "System of the world is more 
naturall & genuine than that of Tycho's." ^^ Cudworth objected 

18 Brief Lives, ed. A. Clark (Oxford, 1898), I, 365-372. 

^^ Ibid., p. 340. This story is told in a quite different manner by Sorbiere: 
"II a fait peur je ne s^ay comment au Clerge de son pays, aux Mathematiciens 
d'Oxfordt, & a leurs adherants; c'est pourquoy S[a] M[ajeste3 me le compara 
tres-bien a Tours, contre lequel il fait battre les dogues pour les exercer" {Relation 
d'un voyage en Angleterre [Cologne, 1666], p. 76). 

''■^ Cowley's ode to Hobbes was published before the Royal Society was founded, 
but there is nothing to indicate that he did not to the end continue to admire both 
the opposing parties. 

22 A controversy discussed and deservedly emphasized as "of great importance 
in the history of seventeenth-century thought" by Marjorie H. Nicolson, "Milton 
and Hobbes," Studies in Philology, XXHI (1926), 409. 

22 Philosophical Poems (Cambridge, 1647), p. 390. 

56 The Milieu of John Dry den 

only to a materialistic interpretation of the new science. Imbued 
with the notion that truth is purest at its source in antiquity, he 
sought there for a truer philosophy. In his erudite work, The True 
Intellectual System of the Universe (1678), he distinguished between 
the ancient theistic and atheistic atomisms, the former of which 
he believed to be derived from Moses. From such heights of learn- 
ing he felt himself able to weigh and estimate the atomistic science 
of his contemporaries, who were only reviving ancient doctrine, 
"and that with no small pomp and ostentation of wisdom and 

Though directing their polemics especially against Hobbes, 
both More and Cudworth, significantly, approved of Descartes, 
even though with some reservations. In the Preface to his treatise 
on The Immortality of the Soul, 2l treatise refuting Hobbes's doc- 
trine that the soul is material,^'^ More declares that he thinks 

... it is the most sober and faithful advice that can be offered 
to the Christian World, that they would encourage the reading 
of Des-Cartes in all publick Schools and Universities. That the 
Students of Philosophy may be thoroughly exercised in the just 
extent of the Mechanical powers of Matter, how farre they will 
reach, and where they fall short. Which will be the best assistance 
to Religion that Reason and the Knowledge of Nature can afford. 
For by this means such as are intended to serve the Church will 
be armed betimes with sufficient strength to grapple with their 
proudest Deriders or Opposers. Whenas for want of this, we see 
how liable they are to be contemned and born down by every bold, 
though weak, pretender to the Mechanick Philosophy.^^ 

Cudworth gives Descartes the high praise of having revived the 
right kind, the theistic atomism of Moschus, whom Cudworth 
rashly identified with Moses. 

For Renatus Cartesius first revived and restored the atomick 
philosophy, agreeably, for the most part, to that ancient Moschical 
and Pythagorick form; acknowledging besides extended substance 
and corporeal atoms, another cogitative incorporeal substance, and 
joyning metaphysicks or theology, together with physiology, to 
make up one entire system of philosophy. 

** Op. cit. (London, 1662), Chaps. VIII-XII, pp. 34-49. 
» Ibid., Preface. 

The Crisis of the New Science 57 

Hobbes, however, he unreservedly condemns, although without 
naming him: 

But shortly after this Cartesian restitution of the primitive 
atomology, that acknowledgeth incorporeal substance, we have 
had our Leucippus and Democritus too, who also revived and 
brought upon the stage that other atheistick atomology, that 
makes senseless and lifeless atoms to be the only principles of all 
things in the universe; thereby necessarily excluding, besides in- 
corporeal substance and immortality of souls, a Deity and natural 
morality; as also making all actions and events materially and 
mechanically necessary. ^^ 

These attempts to read Hobbes out of the new scientific move- 
ment did not, however, draw him into controversy, any more than 
did the sermons and pamphlets of *' every young Churchman mili- 
tant," who, as Warburton says, "would needs try his arms in 
thundering upon Hobbes' steel-cap." But the members of the 
Royal Society penetrated his armor, stirred him to counterattack, 
and in mathematics and physics won a whole series of easy vic- 
tories, each of which seems to have left Hobbes more sore and ob- 
stinate than enlightened. He was indeed constantly on the wrong 
side of scientific questions; he was incompetent enough as a 
mathematician to try to demonstrate the quadrature of the circle; 
he rashly contradicted Boyle on the nature of the vacuum. Both 
as scientist and mathematician he had been discredited in discern- 
ing circles even before 1660.^^ It was his reputation and influence 
with the larger public that made a continued polemic against him 
necessary. The situation was especially delicate because the royal 
patron of the new science also showed a marked partiality for this 

^ True Intellectual System (London, 1743), Book I, Chap. Ill, sec. 38, pp. 174- 


2^ See the correspondence of Christian Huygens, in (Euvres completes (La 
Haye, 1888 fF.); especially the letters from Huygens to J. Wallis, March 15, 1656 
(Vol. I, No. 272); and from Huygens to R. Moray, November 4, 1661 (Vol. HI, 
No. 916): "Dans le Dialogue de Monsieur Hobbes je ne trouve rien de solide, 
mais seulement de pures visions. C'est par faute d'esprit ou par ce qu'il se plait 
a contredire qu'il ne recoit pas les veritables raisons des effets du vide, qui sont 
dans le liure de Monsieur Boile. Quand a ce qu'il adjouste de la duplication du 
cube, je ne I'ay pas voulu regarder par ce que je scay demonstratiuement que la 
chose est impossible. Et d'ailleurs il y a long temps qu'en matiere de Geometric 
Monsieur Hobbes a perdu tout credit aupres du moy." 

58 The Milieu of John Dryden 

charlatanical but dreaded enemy of the scientists.^ And though 
dangerous as an enemy, Hobbes would have been far more in- 
sidiously dangerous as a friend and member of the Royal Society. 
The leaders of the new scientific movement could never have ad- 
mitted the modern Democritus to their ranks without endangering 
their cause. Their most subtle and persistent difficulty was to ex- 
plain to the public the difference between the Hobbists and the 
members of the Royal Society; to explain how it was possible for 
Christian scientists to accept the new philosophy of motion and 
yet escape an atheistic materialism. 


The Royal Society had of course enemies of all kinds. They 
alienated many churchmen and scholars by attacking the Aristo- 
telian scholasticism which still dominated the universities. Here 
the Royal Society had to contend with a powerful vested interest, 
and they fought it vigorously and openly. But they suffered even 
more from the suspicion that they were undermining religion. 
Sprat, in his History of the Royal Society (1667), approaches this 
subject with the statement that it is "the weightiest and most 
solemn part of my whole undertaking; to make a defense of the 
Royal Society, and this new Experimental Learnings in respect to 
the Christian Faith. I am not ignorant, in what a slippery place I 
now stand; and what a tender matter I am enter'd upon." ^^ 

Sprat's discussion of the matter is eminently tactful, and also 
somewhat evasive. There is none of the direct attack on Hobbes 
found in More and Cudworth. The facts about the situation are 
more easily gathered from Boyle. This recognized great champion 
of both religion and science ^° was also one of the chief antagonists, 
along with Wallis and Ward, of Hobbes, to whom his references 

28 (Euvres completes, letters from Moray to Huygens, September 13 and October 
19, 1 661 (Vol. Ill, Nos. 893 and 909). According to Sorbiere, Charles II would 
have liked to have Hobbes elected to the Royal Society {Relation [ed. cited], p. 75). 

2' History, ed. cited, Part III, sec. xiv, p. 345. 

3° Stillingfleet, in a letter of October 6, 1662, urged Boyle to publish his papers 
on behalf of Christianity against Hobbes. See Boyle, Works, V (1744), 516. See 
also letters from Peter du Moulin, December 28, 1669 (V, 594); from J. Beale, 
June 26, 1682 (V, 505); from Cudworth, October 16, 1684 (V, 549) — all indicative 
of the way Boyle was relied upon to save the day. 

The Crisis of the New Science 59 

are frequent and explicit. In the Preface to An Examen of Mr. T. 
Hobbes his Dialogus Physicus de Natura Aeris (1662) he says he is 
writing to defend the experimental method which Hobbes scorned. 
He adds: 

It was also suggested to me that the dangerous opinions about 
some important, if not fundamental, articles of religion, I had met 
with in his Leviathariy and some other of his writings, having made 
too great impressions upon divers persons, (who, though said to be 
for the most part either of greater quality, or of greater wit than 
learning, do yet divers of them deserve better principles,) these 
errors being chiefly recommended by the opinion they had of Mr. 
Hobbes' s demonstrative way of philosophy; it might possibly prove 
some service to higher truths than those in controversy between 
him and me, to shew, that in the Physics themselves, his opinions, 
and even his ratiocinations, have no such great advantage over 
those, of some orthodox Christian Naturalists.^^ 

In his Usefulness of Natural Philosophy (1663) he objects that 

... it has long been the custom of such men [i.e. atheists], to talk, 
as if themselves, and those of their mind, were not alone the best, 
but almost the only naturalists; and to perplex others with pre- 
tending, that, whereas it is not conceivable, how there can be a 
God; all things are by the principles of the atomical philosophy, 
made clear and facil.^^ 

In the second part of this work (1671) he says: 

I forget not that there are several divines (and some of the 
eminent ones) that out of a holy jealousy (as they think) for re- 
ligion, labour to deter men from addicting themselves to serious 
and thorough inquiries into nature, as from a study unsafe for a 
Christian, and likely to end in atheism, by making it possible for 
men (that I may propose to you their objection as much to its ad- 
vantage as I can) to give themselves such an account of all the 
wonders of nature, by the single knowledge of second causes, as 
may bring them to disbelieve the necessity of a first.^^ 

" Works, I, 119, 32 Part \^ Essay 5, in Works, I, 459. 

^ Ibid., pp. 429-430. Meric Casaubon, no friend to the new science, had 
expressed this objection in A Letter . . . to Peter du Moulin . . . Concerning 
Natural experimental Philosophies and some books lately set out about it (Cambridge, 
1669). After a lengthy attack on the presumption of the new science, he continues 
(p. 30): "Now I crave leave to tell you, that it is (as all good things, more or less) 
very apt to be abused and to degenerate into Atheism. Men that are much fixed 
upon matter and secondary causes and sensual objects, if great care be not taken, 
may in time, (there be many examples) and by degrees forget that there be such 

6o The Milieu of John Dryden 

In 1675 Boyle writes that, whereas atheists had formerly been 
in the habit of attacking the historical and doctrinal parts of 
Christian theology, they in this age attacked the very notion of 
God and religion. "For these libertines own themselves to be so 
upon the account of the Epicurean, and other mechanical prin- 
ciples of philosophy"; and, he adds, they recognize no authorities 
except such as "Leucippus, Democritus, Epicurus, &c.," who 
** explicate things by matter and local motion." ^^ ''The modern 
AtheistSy^ wrote the Reverend Joseph Glanvill, another member of 
the Royal Society, "are pretenders to the mechanick principles . . . 
the modern Sadduce pretends that all things we do, are performed 
by meer matter, and motion, and consequently that there is no such 
thing as an immaterial being." ^^ Obviously, the scientists of the 
Royal Society, even though they themselves may have been secure 
from the charge of atheism, could hardly escape the charge of cul- 
tivating a philosophy which led to atheism in others. How did they 
defend themselves against this charge.^ 

Officially they did nothing. Officially the Royal Society, as 
Sprat says, "is abundantly cautious, not to intermeddle in Spiritual 
things,^' and such subjects as God and the soul were not discussed 
at their meetings.^^ Nevertheless, there was considerable una- 
nimity of opinion among the members. It is well known that 
Descartes was respected by them as both a philosophical and a 
scientific genius. Through the Royal Society as well as through 
the Cambridge Platonists, Cartesianism became a very important 
element in English idealistic thought in that century. But the 
members of the Royal Society adopted also another mode of de- 
fense against materialism, namely, a critique of the very science 

things in the world as Spirits, substances really existing and of great power, though 
not visible, or palpable by their nature; forget I say, that there is a God, and that 
their souls are immortal." In this same year Dr. du Moulin, who was like Casaubon 
a prebendary of Canterbury, saw his Latin poem in praise of the Royal Society 
suppressed by the licenser, Dr. Gunning, later Bishop of Ely. See Boyle's JVorksy 
I, 60, and V, 594. 

** Preface to Some Considerations about the Re cone He able ness of Reason and 
Religion, ed. cited. III, 510. 

^ Philosophia Pia (1671), pp. 23, 32. 

^ History, ed. cited. Part III, sec. xiv, and Part II, sec. xi, pp. 83 and 347. 

The Crisis of the New Science 6i 

they were promoting, a critique which varied all the way from 
timidity in generalization to philosophical skepticism. 

Sprat testifies to the extreme caution of the Society from its 
very inception. Their motto Nullius in Verba was a hit at the 
tyranny of scholasticism, but it soon became apparent that the 
tyranny of Epicurus or Democritus, or of any "modern dogma- 
tists," would be equally unwelcome.^^ In fact, no philosopher was 
accorded the seat of authority, not even Descartes. Companies, 
Sprat says repeatedly, are to be preferred before single endeavors 
in philosophical matters, as ** exhibiting more wariness, and cold- 
ness in thinking, and rigorous examination." Altogether Sprat 
fears that **to this fault oi Sceptical doubting, the Royal Society may 
perhaps be suspected, to be a little too much inclined : because they 
always professed, to be so backward from setling of Principles, or 
fixing upon Doctrines." To which Sprat replies that generalizing 
is for the future, and in the mean time dogmatism is more danger- 
ous than skepticism.^^ 

Among the workers in the Royal Society no one was more wary 
and cold in scientific thinking, more reluctant to dogmatize from 
the new science, than Robert Boyle. It is therefore particularly 
important to note that he cultivated this critical, not to say skepti- 
cal, attitude toward science with a conscious intent to serve re- 
ligion. In his Excellence of Theology (1673), P^^*^ II> section 3, he 
criticizes the belief that physics has one prerogative over divinity, 
namely, "the certainty, and clearness, and thence resulting satis- 
factoriness of our knowledge of physical, in comparison of any we 
can have of theological matters, whose being dark and uncertain, 
the nature of the things themselves, and the numerous controver- 
sies of differing sects about them, sufficiently manifest." In reply 
Boyle does not urge the certainty of divinity, but the real uncer- 
tainty of science. 

That physical certainty [he says] which is pretended for the 
truths demonstrated by naturalists, is, even where it is rightfully 
claimed, but an inferior kind or degree of certainty, as moral cer- 
tainty also is. For even physical demonstrations can beget but a 
physical certainty, (that is, a certainty upon supposition, that the 

^■^ Ihid.y Part I, sees, xiii-xv, pp. 28-35. ^8 md,^ pp. 100-109. 

62 The Milieu of John Dryden 

principles of physic be true,) not a metaphysical certainty, (wherein 
it is absolutely impossible, that the thing believed should be other 
than true). . . . And there are I know not how many things in 
physicks, that men presume they believe upon physical and cogent 
arguments, wherein they really have but a moral assurance; which 
is a truth held by so few, that I have been invited to take the more 
particular notice of them in other papers, written purposely to 
show the doubtfulness and incompleteness of natural philosophy; 
. . . the most even of the modern virtuosi are wont to fancy more 
of clearness and certainty in their physical theories, than a crit- 
ical examiner will find.^^ 

Boyle, then, sought a reconciliation of the new science with religion 
by limiting the sphere of reason; he weakened the materialistic 
interpretation of the new science by emphasizing the uncertainty 
of science itself. 

This criticism of scientific knowledge was carried still further by 
Joseph Glanvill, whose volume. The Vanity of Dogmatizing (1661), 
was reprinted in 1664 as Scepsis scientifica, with a Dedication to 
the Royal Society which resulted in his election to membership.^ 
A passage from this Dedication will explain his purpose and its 
relation to Hobbes as well as to the new science. The work of 
the Royal Society, he says, is 

. . . the improving the minds of Men in solid and useful notices of 
things, helping them to such theories as may be serviceable to 
common life, and the searching out of the true laws of Matter and 
Motion, in order to the securing of the Foundations of Religion 
against all attempts of Mechanical Atheism. 

For the ingenious World being grown quite weary of Qualities 
and Formes, and declaring in favour of the Mechanical Hypothesis, 
(to which a person that is not very fond of Religion is a great pre- 

" Works, III, 432. Cf. Burtt, op. cit., pp. 178-182, and Whitehead's discus- 
sion of modern science as "predominantly an anti-rationalistic movement" (p. 23). 
Although passages from Boyle could be patched together to make a criticism of 
human knowledge almost as complete as that of Glanvill, yet Nourrisson has 
undoubtedly exaggerated his skepticism in his essay in Philosophies de la nature 
(Paris, 1887), pp. 43-84. 

*° On December 7, 1664, "Lord Brereton presented a book written by J. Glan- 
vill, dedicated to the Society, the dedication of which was read. Mr. Glanvill was 
proposed candidate by Lord Brereton" (Thomas Birch, History of the Royal 
Society, p. 500). Glanvill was elected and admitted December 14, 1664. Scepsis 
scientifica was licensed for publication on October 18, 1664. 

The Crisis of the New Science 63 

tender) divers of the brisker Geniuses, who desire rather to be 
accounted Witts, then endeavour to be so, have been wilHng to 
accept Mechanism upon Hobbian conditions, and many others 
were in danger of following them into the precipice. So that 'tis 
not conceivable how a more suitable remedy could have been pro- 
vided against the deadly influence of that Contagion, then your 
Honourable Society, by which the meanest intellects may perceive, 
that Mechanick Philosophy yields no security to irreligion, and 
that those that would be gentilely learned and ingenious, need not 
purchase it, at the dear rate of being atheists. 

It is impossible and unnecessary here to examine in detail the 
skepticism of Glanvill. We are concerned more with the occasion 
of his thought than with an evaluation of it. It must suffice to 
say that Glanvill has a place in the history of philosophy as an 
acute and ingenious thinker, whose critique of causation antici- 
pates in some respects that of Hume himself. These scientific 
skeptics were, indeed, not naive theorizers; they were versed in 
the tradition of philosophical skepticism. Boyle knew the work 
of Sextus Empiricus,''^ and Glanvill shows an acquaintance not 
only with Sextus, but with such modern disciples as Montaigne 
and Charron.^^ Perhaps they were also indebted to Sir Thomas 
Browne, although his imaginative flights and complete humiliation 
of the reason must have appeared to them rather too uncritical. 
And yet Glanvill conveyed, in rhythms that recall Browne, a sense 
of the mystery of the world both in its vastness and in its infinite 
minuteness, and of the miracle of man among all these unexplain- 
able wonders: 

Whatever I look upon within the amplitude of heaven and 
earth, is evidence of humane ignorance; For all thijigs are a great 
darkness to us, and we are so unto our selves: The plainest things 
are as obscure, as the most confessedly mysterious; and the Plants 
we tread on, are as much above us, as the Stars and Heavens. The 
things that touch us are as distant from us, as the Pole; and 
we are as much strangers to our selves, as to the inhabitants of 
America. ^^ 

*^ See reference in A Free Inquiry into the received Notion of Nature, printed in 
1686, but written about 1666 {Works, IV, 376 and 359). 

*' Ferris Greenslet, Joseph Glanvill (New York, 1900), pp. 95 fF. For references 
to Montaigne and Charron see Scepsis scientifica, pp. 114 and 172. 

*' From "Address to the Royal Society," Scepsis scientifica. 

64 The Milieu of John Dry den 

Both Glanvill and Boyle, however, refused to be identified with 
the extreme skeptical position that truth is unknowable.^'* They 
were far from intending to discourage scientific and philosophic 
activity. But they believed that he is least likely to go astray 
who is most keenly aware of the weakness and deception of human 
faculties. And in "Hobbism" they saw the grand modern illus- 
tration of stiflF confidence in opinion, of the vanity of dogmatizing.^^ 
These controveries reverberated outside the immediate circles 
of the Royal Society. When Richard Baxter in 1667 defended the 
doctrine of the immortality of the soul against the ''Somatists or 
Epicureans," he relied, among other arguments against material- 
ism, upon that of Glanvill.^^ He answers twenty objections to the 
doctrine, of which the first and fundamental is that "Matter and 
Motion, without any more, may do all that which you ascribe to 
souls." "And to what Authors," cries Baxter scornfully, "will 
they send us for the proof of this assertion? Is it to Mr. Hobs}" 
Hobbes, he thinks, has received some "smart castigations" from 
Dr. Ward and Dr. Bramhall, but he ventures "some general 
countercharges and reasons, against the authority" of the Material- 

** See, for instance, Boyle, ed. cited, I, 374; and Joseph Glanvill, Scire, or 
Reply to Albius (1665), p. 3. 

^ The skeptical attitude toward science was not without later influence. In 
1688 Matthew Prior, then at St. John's College, Cambridge, wrote a grandiose 
ode On Exod. III. 14. — / Am That I Am, the theme of which is the inadequacy 
of reason to understand the world and the necessity of exercising faith and rever- 
ence to reach the high abode of the mysterious God who revealed himself to Moses. 
A few hnes will show how definitely Prior applied his critique to materialistic 

"Man does with dangerous curiosity 
These unfathom'd wonders try: 
With fancied rules and arbitrary laws 
Matter and motion he restrains; 
And studied lines and fictions circles draws: 
Then with imagin'd sovereignty 
Lord of his new hypothesis he reigns." 

(M. Prior, Poetical Works, ed. R. B. Johnson [London, 1907], I, i^-ij.) The 
Scepsis scientifica has again become a familiar and an important conception in the 
discussions of the present century, as, for instance, in £mile Boutroux, "La Reli- 
gion et les limites de la science," Science et religion (Paris, 1908). 

*^ R. Baxter, The Reasons of the Christian Religion (London, 1667), pp. 489- 
604. Passages quoted are from pages 495-498. 

The Crisis of the New Science 65 

ists. His first observation seems to have in view chiefly their op- 
position to Aristotelianism and the theological definition of the 
soul, though it may also glance at their ridicule of all idealistic 
thought, including the Libertine derision of the science of ethics: 
*'When I find men," he says, ''dispute against Man^ and reason 
against the power of Reason, I think humane interest alloweth me 
to be distrustful of their sophistry, and to yield no further than I 
have cogent evidence. If man's soul be his form, he denieth man 
to be man, who denieth him that soul." After this observation, 
Baxter makes a curious — but in his age a not uncommon — volte- 

I find Philosophers so little agreed among themselves, that it 
greatly diminisheth their authority and requireth a man who is 
just to his reason, to make a very accurate trial before he fall in 
with any of their opinions. . . . 

I find the wisest of them so conscious of their ignorance, that 
they take most for uncertain which they say themselves; and con- 
fess they talk but in the dark: which made the Pyrrhonians and 
Arcesilas have so many followers; and Cicero with the Academicks 
so over-modest in disclaiming certainty and confidence, and writing 
by Dialogues with so much indifferency and wavering as they did. 
I need not send you to Zanchez his Nihil scitur, nor to our Mr. 
GlanviVs Vanity of Dogmatizing, for satisfaction. The learned 
Gassendus his modesty is sufficient, who if he speak of Occult 
Qualities, will ask you. What Qualities are not Occult? 

"The most who in this age adhere to the Epicurean (or Cartesian) 
Hypothesis," Baxter notes, "are the younger sort of ingenious 
men," and among them Gassendi's authority was almost equal to 
that of Hobbes; the quotation from Gassendi was therefore adroit, 
though hardly representative. Baxter was not a Pyrrhonist; but 
when he had to contend with the prevalent materialistic dogma- 
tism, he was ready to borrow an argument from Sanchez and 
Glanvill and buttress it with a confession from the foremost 
among the enemy. 


It is now possible to return to Dryden and ask whether he was 
aware of the developments we have sketched. We should the more 
expect their influence to be noticeable because they came so largely 

(i6 The Milieu of John Dryden 

in the period from 1660 to 1680, the very years when Dryden was 
equipping himself with those ideas which make his poHtical and re- 
ligious poems, as a group, a remarkable expression of the conserva- 
tive temperament. Religio Laid and The Hind and the Panther 
constitute the terminus ad quern in a study of Dryden's intellectual 
history. But for material on his development up to 1680 we have 
to depend quite largely on his dramas. 

A valuable clue is given us in the notes collected in 1679-80 by 
John Aubrey toward a life of Hobbes: '*Mr. John Dreyden, Poet 
Laureat, is his great admirer, and oftentimes makes use of his doc- 
trine in his plays — from Mr. Dreyden himselfe." ^"^ And although 
Aubrey was too enthusiastic a friend of Hobbes to be trusted in all 
matters, yet this note can hardly be without foundation. Its au- 
thoritative source is confirmed by the many parallels to the doc- 
trines of Hobbes to be found in Dryden's plays. In political 
thought, for instance, the monarchical absolutism of Hobbes is 
also the doctrine of Dryden's stage creatures,'^ and must have 
been particularly grateful to the ears of the court audience for 
which Dryden wrote. And yet this resemblance alone would 
not be decisive proof of indebtedness; a narrow political outlook 
was almost inevitable in heroic drama, and is common enough in 
the plays of Orrery, for instance, who has hardly been suspected 
of an admiration for Hobbes. More conclusive, I believe, and for 
the purpose of this study, more important, is the frequent refer- 
ence in Dryden to the dilemma of free-will and necessity — the 
great ethical problem raised in a new form by Hobbism. In 1664, 
in his Dedication of The Rival Ladies to Lord Orrery, he implies 
that free-will is a delusion: 

Here in [Orrery's plays] is no chance, which you have not fore- 
seen; all your heroes are more than your subjects, they are your 
creatures; and though they seem to move freely in all the sallies 
of their passions, yet you make destinies for them, which they can- 

" Brief Lives, I, 372. For the date of the notes see Introduction, p. 16. 

** Mr. Merritt Y. Hughes has pointed out parallels in his article, "Dryden as 
Statist," Philological Quarterly, VI (1927), 334-350; but he relied only on internal 
evidence, without noting either the remark of Aubrey or Richard Leigh's con- 
temporary accusation that Dryden got his political ideas from Hobbes, in Censure 
of the Rota (1673), P- ^9- 

The Crisis of the New Science 67 

not shun. They are moved (if I may dare to say so) Hke the 
rational creatures of the Almighty Poet, who walk at liberty, in 
their own opinion, because their fetters are invisible; when, in- 
deed, the prison of their will is the more sure for being large; and, 
instead of an absolute power over their actions, they have only a 
wretched desire of doing that, which they cannot choose but do/^ 

Almanzor, the hero of The Conquest of Granada (1670), is troubled 
by the same problem: 

O Heaven, how dark a riddle's thy decree, 

Which bounds our wills, yet seems to leave them free! 

Since thy fore-knowledge cannot be in vain, 

Our choice must be what thou didst first ordain. 

Thus, like a captive in an isle confined, 

Man walks at large, a prisoner of the mind: 

Wills all his crimes, while Heaven the indictment draws, 

And, pleading guilty, justifies the laws.^° 

A sufficient number of such allusions can be found before 1680 
to indicate that Dryden was interested in the subject. ^^ Perhaps 
the most surprising expression of determinism is in The State of 
Innocence (1674), ^^^ operatic version of Paradise Lost, a philosoph- 
ical perversion of the epic to which it is hard to believe Milton 
would have given his consent. In the opera the newly created 
Adam seems to have an innate understanding of seventeenth- 
century philosophy. When he first becomes conscious, he rises 
and paraphrases Descartes' Discourse on Method: 

*9 Works, n, 132-133. 

^° The Conquest of Granada, Part H, Act IV, sc. iii {Works, IV, 190-191). 
" I have collected the following, with references to the Scott and Saintsbury 

Indian Queen (1664), Act II, sc. iii (II, 246) 

Indian Queen (1664), Act III, sc. ii (II, 257) 

The Tempest (1667), Act III, sc. v (III, 175) 

Tyrannic Love (1669), Act I, sc. i (III, 389) 

Tyrannic Love (1669), Act III, sc. i (III, 410) 

Tyrannic Love (1669), Act IV, sc. i (III, 430) 

The Conquest of Granada, Part I (1670), Act II, sc. i (IV, 56-57) 

The Conquest of Granada, Part II (1670), Act III, sc. i (IV, 162) 

In the Dedication to Aureng-Zehe (1676) there is an interesting passage: "Our 
minds are perpetually wrought on by the temperament of our bodies; which makes 
me suspect, they are nearer allied, than our philosophers or school-divines will 
allow them to be." 

68 The Milieu of John Dry den 

What am I? or from whence? For that I am 
I know, because I think, . . . ^^ 

But when Gabriel and Raphael are sent down jointly to instruct 
Adam in the doctrine of the freedom of the will, they find him a 
most reluctant and obstinate scholar. 

Gabriel. The Eternal, when he did the world create. 
All other agents did necessitate: 
So what he ordered, they by nature do: 
Thus light things mount, and heavy downward go. 
Man only boasts an arbitrary state. 

Adam. Yet causes their effects necessitate 

In willing agents; where is freedom then? 
Or who can break the chain which limits men 
To act what is unchangeably forecast. 
Since the first cause gives motion to the last? 

The lengthy discussion appears to have been unsuccessful, for after 
his instructors have departed Adam is still lamenting his "hard 
state of life" in the divine disposition which has been explained 
to him.^^ These pages of argument read like a brief summary of 
the famous Bramhall-Hobbes controversy, with Adam, despite his 
Innocence, taking the part of Hobbes. 

But it would be a mistake hastily to infer, from such passages 
and from Aubrey's note, the conclusion that Dryden was at this 
time a disciple of Hobbes, any more than of Descartes. He must 
have been interested in necessitarianism, speculated on its impli- 
cations, and enjoyed testing out its argumentative strength in 
verse. Sympathetic intellectual curiosity is one of Dryden's 
marked characteristics. But this very suppleness of his mind 
served also to liberate him from the dogmatism and egotism of 
Hobbes. In his old age he spoke of Hobbes's translation of Homer 
as ''bald," adding that he studied ''poetry as he did mathematics, 
when it was too late." ^^ It was a curt dismissal. In 1685, in a 
discussion of himself as translator of Lucretius, he incidentally 
clearly draws the distinction between himself and Hobbes, both 
in temperament and ideas: 

52 The StaU of Innocence, Act II, sc. i (fForks, V, 133-134). 

w Ibid., Act IV, sc. i (Works, V, 152-156). 

" Preface to the Fables (1700), (Essays, II, 252). 

The Crisis of the New Science 69 

If I am not mistaken, the distinguishing character of Lucretius 
(I mean of his soul and genius) is a certain kind of noble pride, 
and positive assertion of his opinions. He is everywhere confident 
of his own reason, and assuming an absolute command, not only- 
over his vulgar reader, but even his patron Memmius. For he is 
always bidding him attend, as if he had the rod over him, as our 
poet and philosopher of Malmesbury. This is that perpetual dic- 
tatorship, which is exercised by Lucretius; who, though often in 
the wrong, yet seems to deal bona fide with his reader, and tells 
him nothing but what he thinks; in which plain sincerity, I be- 
lieve, he differs from our Hobbes, who could not but be convinced, 
or at least doubt, of some eternal truths, which he had opposed. . . . 
For there is no doubt to be made, but that he [Lucretius] could 
have been everywhere as poetical, as he is in his descriptions, and 
in the moral part of his philosophy, if he had not aimed more to 
instruct, in his System of Nature, than to delight. But he was 
bent upon making Memmius a materialist, and teaching him to 
defy an invisible power: in short, he was so much an atheist, that 
he forgot sometimes to be a poet. These are the considerations, 
which I had of that author, before I attempted to translate some 
parts of him. And accordingly I laid by my natural diffidence and 
scepticism for a while, to take up that dogmatical way of his, 
which, as I said, is so much his character, as to make him that in- 
dividual poet.^^ 

These passages, it is true, come too late in Dryden's life to con- 
stitute alone any sure indication of his attitude toward Hobbes be- 
fore 1680. But when they are considered along with his earlier 
comments on the new science, the Royal Society, and his own dis- 
trust of dogmatism, they lose their casual appearance; and the 
impression grows that Dryden's attitude toward Hobbes must 
from the beginning have involved reservations and that he must 
have found himself more naturally on the side of the Royal Society, 
with its eminent spokesmen Boyle and Glanvill.^^ 

^^ Preface to Sylvae (1685), {Essays, I, 259-260). 

^ A very interesting passage in the Essay on Heroic Plays {\6yi) by no means 
implies discipleship: "I dare further affirm, that the whole doctrine of separated 
beings, whether those spirits are incorporeal substances (which Mr. Hobbes, with 
some reason, thinks to imply a contradiction), or that they are a thinner or more 
aerial sort of bodies (as some of the Fathers have conjectured), may better be 
explicated by poets than by philosophers or divines. For their speculations on 
this subject are wholly poetical; they have only their fancy for their guide; and 
that, being sharper in an excellent poet, than it is likely it should in a phlegmatic, 

70 The Milieu of John Dryden 

There can be no doubt of Dryden's real appreciation of the new 
science. In an Epistle to Dr. Charlton, written in 1662, he praises 
English science, especially Bacon, Gilbert, Boyle, and Harvey. 
There is the famous apostrophe to the Royal Society in Annus 
Mirabilis, in which, after prophesying remarkable progress in navi- 
gation, he adds: 

This I foretell, from your auspicious care 

Who great in search of God and nature grow; 

Who best your wise Creator's praise declare, 
Since best to praise His works is best to know. 

Even more direct and forceful are two passages, heretofore strangely 
neglected, in An Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668). One is a recog- 
nition of the remarkable scientific advance after Copernicus: 

Is it not evident [asks Crites, who is otherwise on the side of 
the Ancients] in these last hundred years (when the study of 
philosophy has been the business of all the Virtuosi in Christen- 
dom), that almost a new Nature has been revealed to us? — that 
more errors of the school have been detected, more useful experi- 
ments in philosophy have been made, more noble secrets in optics, 
medicine, anatomy, astronomy, discovered, than in all those 
credulous and doting ages from Aristotle to us? — so true it is, 
that nothing spreads more fast than science, when rightly and 
generally cultivated.^^ 

Later in the same essay he makes Lisideius allude to "what the 
philosophers say of motion that, when it is once begun, it contin- 
ues of itself, and will do so to eternity, without some stop put to 
it,** 68 — which is a simple statement of what was later to become 
Newton's first law of motion. 

But we can go even further. That "natural diffidence and 
skepticism" which Dryden in 1685 declared part of his character, 

heavy gownman, will see farther in its own empire, and produce more satisfactory 
notions on those dark and doubtful problems" {Essays, I, 153). A man who held 
such theories of knowledge and psychology would certainly never have been recog- 
nized by Hobbes as a hopeful disciple. Dryden had a very un-Hobbesian interest 
in the realms of mystery, and he repeatedly defended the use of the supernatural 
in epic poetry. 

" Essays, I, 36-37. " Ibid., p. 63. 

The Crisis of the New Science 71 

he already in 1668 identified with the skeptical attitude of the 
Royal Society. When his brother-in-law, Sir Robert Howard, 
charged him with being "magisterial" in An Essay of Dramatic 
Poesy f his reply was that 

... in vindication of myself, I must crave leave to say, that my 
whole discourse was sceptical, according to that way of reasoning 
which was used by Socrates, Plato, and all the Academics of old, 
which Tully and the best of the Ancients followed, and which is 
imitated by the modest inquisitions of the Royal Society. That 
it is so, not only the name will show, which is an Essay, but the 
frame and composition of the work. You see it is a dialogue sus- 
tained by persons of several opinions, all of them left doubtful, to 
be determined by the readers in general.^^ 

In the true spirit of the Royal Society he asks, in the Preface to An 
Evening s Love (1671), "why should there be any Ipse dixit in our 
poetry, any more than there is in our philosophy.?" ^^ 

That skepticism which separated Dryden from Hobbes and 
Lucretius was therefore no passing whim; it was both an early and 
a permanent intellectual characteristic. In the Preface to Religio 
Laid (1682) he confesses that he was "naturally inclined to scep- 
ticism in philosophy." He criticizes the Deists, and even some 
leaders in the Anglican Church, for their confidence in religious 
rationalism. He says: 

Our modern philosophers, nay, and some of our philosophizing 
divines have too much exalted the faculties of our souls, when they 
have maintained that by their force mankind has been able to find 
that there is one supreme agent or intellectual Being which we call 
God. . . . They who would prove religion by reason, do but weaken 
the cause which they endeavour to support: 'tis to take away the 
pillars from our faith, and to prop it only with a twig. 

It was this distrust of reason, this philosophical skepticism, that 
drove Dryden toward conservatism and authority in religion, and 
ultimately to the Catholic Church, just as his distrust of the popu- 
lace was one reason for his increasing conservatism and Toryism 
in politics. 

*' Ibid., p. 124. Dryden was following Cicero's account in Academica in 
designating Socrates and Plato among the "sceptical." Compare the earlier quo- 
tations from Fitzherbert, p. 26, and Baxter, p. 65. 

"O Ibid., p. 138. Cf. also Defence of the Epilogue (1672), I, 163. 

72 The Milieu of John Dryden 

Fragmentary and meager as the evidence is, it seems neverthe- 
less sufficient to indicate that Dryden was not unresponsive to the 
intellectual impulses aroused by the new scientific movement. He 
was deeply interested in the philosophy of Hobbes and over a long 
period ruminated on the perplexing problem of materialism. But 
his own temper allied him rather with the critics and enemies of 
Hobbes, and with their arguments against the Malmesbury philos- 
opher he was unquestionably familiar. The consequence was a pro- 
found and permanent stimulus to the skeptical tendency of his 
nature. It is not contended here that Dryden became a skeptic 
through his contact with the Royal Society, because he knew Boyle 
and Glanvill; skepticism could in that age be acquired in many 
ways. But we can assert that he was interested in the Royal 
Society, understood its spirit, and recognized that he was like- 
minded with it; he understood the new philosophy of motion, 
vaguely perhaps in its scientific aspects, but with an acute interest 
in its deterministic implications regarding human nature; and he 
rejected the dogmatic materialism of Hobbes and Lucretius. And 
when we look for the meaning and importance of his distrust of the 
reason in Religio Laid and The Hind and the Panther, or for the 
interpretation of his ingenuous changeableness in literary opinions, 
we must go, among other places, to his intellectual adventures 
with the new science, with Hobbes, and with the Royal Society. 


i Fideistic developments up to 1660 ii Dissemination of fideism, 1660- 
88 iii Simon's Critical History of the Old Testament iv Dryden's 
supposed Deism v The preparation for the poems on religion: 
Dryden's reading vi The philosophical content of the poems on religion 

THE skeptical tendency, which Dryden betrayed only casually 
in his comments on Hobbes and dogmatic materialism, he 
expressed fully and explicitly in Religio Laid and The Hind and 
the Panther. The Pyrrhonism that permeates Dryden's ideas on 
religion is patent for all to see. 

In an earlier chapter we have traced the history of this appli- 
cation of philosophical skepticism to religion and pointed out how 
Dryden belongs to an important tradition of Christian apologetics, 
a tradition illustrious for its great names and widely disseminated 
over Europe. It will be recalled that, except Sir Thomas Browne, 
the important exponents of this fideism were Roman Catholics, 
and that fideism was particularly serviceable as an argument 
against rationalism and Protestantism. Such is the historical fact; 
for although such anti-rationalistic thought has often developed 
within Protestantism, and in seventeenth-century England was 
particularly prolific among the more ** enthusiastic" dissenting 
sects, it was the Roman Catholic controversialists who used the 
argument with real skill and raised it to the level of learning and 
philosophy. It was they, and not the less sophisticated leaders of 
Dissent, who fully utilized the resources of the Pyrrhonistic dia- 
lectic in religious disputes. In the seventeenth century such at- 
tack on the authority of the reason came therefore to be recognized 
as a distinctly Roman Catholic maneuvre. This statement will 
be further supported by a study of the development of Roman 
Catholic apolog^etics in England from 1600 to Dryden's time, with 
which the present chapter is concerned. 

But one must also remember that whenever this hdeistic argu- 


74 The Milieu of John Dryden 

ment was pressed very far, it became heresy; and all fideistic devel- 
opments have been unwelcome to the Roman Catholic Church. 
Whenever called upon to render its final judgment, the Church 
has always rebuked those who would unduly disparage the human 
reason. Thus in a great crisis in the seventeenth century, the re- 
jection by the Church of the doctrine of absolute depravity as it 
was expounded by the Jansenists, though it may seem on the sur- 
face to have been the triumph of a Jesuit cabal, was a great deal 
more than that; it was consistent with the historical position of 
a church which has quite uniformly been accused by the more ex- 
treme Augustinians of a semi-Pelagianism. The whole central 
tradition of the Roman Catholic Church is against the doctrine 
that faith is best supported by a philosophical skepticism. The 
philosophy of the Church has been the intellectualistic philosophy 
of Thomas Aquinas, which, as is admitted by critics and admirers 
alike, is one of the most ambitious and magnificent constructions 
of the human reason. Not only did Aquinas provide for believers 
an intellectual and systematized statement of revealed truth in the 
Summa Theologiae, but he met unbelievers on their own ground 
of reason with his Summa contra Gentiles. Even Protestants have 
not hesitated to appeal to this great authority over the empire of 
the mind when they needed assistance in their battles against that 
anti-intellectualism of the *' private spirit" which was always 
threatening to disrupt their more conservative churches.^ And 
within the Roman Catholic Church no form of anti-intellectualism 
or philosophical skepticism has permanently succeeded against the 
fortified position of the Thomistic theology. We have already 
seen ^ that fideistic theories were declared heretical as early as 
1348, and that the theory of the double truth was condemned in 

^ Meric Casaubon, for instance, who distrusted even the "prophecy" of the 
Platonic "Theologia mystica," exclaims: "... how contrarie to the doctrine of 
the best Schoolmen, I appeal to Thorn. Aquinas 2. 2. quaestione 174. who there very 
solidly proveth and asserteth the excellencie of rationall intellectuall Christian 
knowledge, above all prophecy: to whom also that excellent Rabbi Ben Maimon, 
the Aquinas of the Rabbins, doth agree in divers places in his More Nevochiviy 
making it (rationall intellectuall Divinitie) the highest degree of Prophesie. . . ." 
— A Treatise Concerning Enthusiasme, As it is an Effect of Nature : but is mistaken 
by many for either Divine Inspiration, or Diabolical Possession (London, 1655), 
pp. 1 18-129. ^ P^g^ 21. 

Roman Catholic ApologHics in England 75 

1277 and again in 15 12. Nominalism, though it flourished might- 
ily, was always disapproved of; in the seventeenth century Jan- 
senism was eradicated; and in the nineteenth century, when such 
fideistic and traditionalistic writers as Lamennais and de Bonald 
enjoyed a great popular following among French Catholics, their 
position was repeatedly repudiated by the Church.^ There is some- 
thing tragic in the long succession of adherents whose reasons for 
submission to its authority the Church has been forced to con- 
demn. Newman was among those who suffered from such a philo- 
sophical isolation; it is indicative of his affinity with the fideistic 
traditions that he, like French Modernists of the latter part of the 
nineteenth century, "dreaded the excesses of Catholic scholasti- 
cism and professed little sympathy with the theology of Thomas 
Aquinas, which has become, under Leo XIII. and Pius X., the 
official theology of the church." ^ 

However often philosophical skepticism has been put to re- 
ligious and controversial uses by Roman Catholics, it has never 
received the approbation of the Church. Montaigne's Essays^ 
Charron's Wisdom^ and Browne's Religio Medici were all put on 
the Index.^ On the whole, fideism and Pyrrhonism has remained a 
border phenomenon and failed to contribute to the main tradition 
of the Church. It has had a succession of histories rather than a 
history, and each manifestation of it has been modified by the 
peculiar circumstances and peculiar controversial exigencies of the 
moment, as much as by the intellectual turn of its proponents. 
This is particularly true of that forgotten development in English 
Catholic apologetics with which we must be concerned, as it has a 
special importance for the understanding of Dryden. 

' See A. Vacant et E, Mangenot, Dictionnaire de theologig catholique (Paris, 
1903 — ), under Augustine^ certitude^ and /oi, particularly the analysis of fideism 
in the last-named article, VI (1920), 179. 

* Charles Sarolea, Cardinal Newman (Edinburgh, 1908), p. 170. This volume 
gives an admirable discussion of the broad questions here passed over so cursorily. 
For a bibliography of fideism see Vacant et Mangenot, op. cit., under cri-dibilite. 
Vol. Ill, cols. 2308-2309. 

^ Of course not every heretical book is put on the Index, because the contro- 
versy, if there is any, is not always carried to Rome for a decision. Many books 
of questionable tendency have never aroused controversy, and many others have 
had a local or passing importance and have never been heard of at Rome. 

76 The Milieu of John Dryden 

The fideistic movement was essentially controversial, and its 
proponents repeatedly asserted that their arguments were to be 
understood only as weapons against Protestantism and not as a 
part of the structure of Roman Catholic theology. Its history is a 
study in theological strategy; and it is therefore best explained by 
a survey of the ground held by the opposing Protestant camp. 

The Reformation, which began as a protest against abuses, 
had quickly assumed a more profound aspect, as a protest against 
the very authority of the Catholic Church. Protestantism, it was 
discovered, was individualism in religion. This discovery, pressed 
home by Catholic controversialists, was on the whole unwelcome 
to the Protestant leaders, who sought to avoid its implications by 
asserting that the clarity of the Scriptures on essential points of 
salvation provided a sufficient basis for uniformity of doctrine; 
on the practical side they even found that the exercise of political 
power was necessary to prevent their churches from disintegrating 
into sectarianism. But the question of Church authority became 
the point of universal dispute, between the state churches and the 
sects as well as between Protestants and Catholics. 

This fundamental question of authority resolved itself natur- 
ally into the problems, first, of the sufficiency — even the intelligi- 
bility and integrity — of the Scriptures, and, second, of the power 
and adequacy of the reason of man to deal with matters of religion. 
In the first department of controversy the name of Cardinal du 
Perron (i 556-161 8) stood preeminent, if we may believe his great 
Huguenot opponent, Daniell Tillenus, professor of divinity in the 
University of Sedan. *'Neyther Hosius,'' he observed, '*nor 
Peresius, nor Soto, nor Lindanus, nor CamuSy nor Canisius, nor yet 
that Arch-Rabby Bellarmine, not any I say, had as yet so mightily 
clipped this spirituall coyne (as Gerson calleth the Scripture) nor 
obserued so much drosse, nor so many defects in the pure Alley 
of the lawe of God, written by Moses, as the Lord of Perron doth." ^ 

* A Defence of the Sufficiency and perfection of the holy Scripture. Against the 
Cauillations of the Lord du Perron. ... By D. Daniell Tillenus, Professor of 
Diuinitie in the Vniuersitie of Sedan. . . . Printed at London by L. S. for Nathan- 
iell Butter. 1606. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 77 

It must have been no small matter to stand highest among these 
critics of the reliability of Scripture who had defamed it, says Tille- 
nus in another place, "with many contumelies, calling it the booke 
of heretikes, the blacke Gospell, Incke-Diuinitie, Leaden ruler, . . . 
the apple of discord, Sphynxes riddle, a sword in a mad-mans hand, 
and other like termes.'* Lindanus, we are told, had even called 
Tradition "the true Moly conseruing the Christian faith, against 
the Enchantments of Hereticks, because Catholikes (saith he) 
would be soone poysoned with these Enchantments (he meaneth 
the Scriptures) if they did not use the Moly or antidote of Tra- 
ditions." ^ 

In their eagerness to attack the Protestants, Catholic contro- 
versialists thus incited scholarly labors in the direction of what 
has become "higher criticism," and their success was such as to 
cause serious anxiety, as we shall see, to Protestants and Catholics 
alike. The greatest representative of this critical scholarship was 
Father Simon, to whose work we shall return in a later section. 

The other problem — of the power of the human mind to es- 
tablish religious truth and of the adequacy and dependability of 
individual interpretations apart from tradition — produced in 
English Catholic propaganda a fideistic movement of ever-increas- 
ing importance down to the reign of James II. If it is to be traced 
to any one source, it must be to a peculiar "method" which Jean 
Gontery (1562-1616), a Jesuit of Bordeaux, discovered for use 
against Protestants.^ This "method" was simply a reductio ad 
absurdum of the Protestant claim to deriving their doctrines from 
Scripture. Gontery was convinced that they read their own ideas 

' Positions lately held by the L. du Perron, Bishop of Eureux, against the suffi- 
ciency and perfection of the Scriptures, maintaining the necessitie and authoriiie of 
umOritten Traditions. Verie learnedly answered and confuted by D. Daniell Tillenus. 
. . . Printed at London by L. S. for Nathaniell Butter. 1606. 

8 La Pierre de touche, ov La Vraye Methode povr des abuser les e sprits trompez 
soubs couleur de Reformation. D'icy on descouurira I'incroyable ruse des Ministres 
faisans a croire aux simples, que les articles de leur confessions de foy Reformee sont 
exprez dans la parole de Dieu escrite, sans quon y en puisse trouuer vne seule clause. 
D'ou il aperra aussi que toute la Reformation pretendue nest quune inuention pure- 
ment humaine, y diabolique. Par le R. P. lean Gontery de la Compagnie de lesus. 
Premiere Partie. Deprauant Scripturas ad suam ipsorum perditionem. 2. Petr. j. 
vers. 16 (Bordeaux, 1614), 474 pages. Seconde Partie de la Pierre de touche, . . . 
(Bordeaux, 1614), 204 pages. 

78 The Milieu of John Dryden 

into Scripture; he therefore argued that if the Bible is to be the 
unique source of religious truth it must be read literally, and with- 
out drawing of inferences and consequences. **For if that which is 
not written [expHcitly in the Bible] is in it and contained in it, 
certainly the Alcoran, Arianism, Donatism, Eutichianism, Anabap- 
tism, and Atheism may be found in it; and all the dreamings of 
shepherds are there. . . . For you grant the liberty to everyone in 
the whole world (by means of your alleged necessary implications) 
to supply at his pleasure whatever comes into his mind. By this 
method the son will revolt against his father, the wife against the 
husband, the subject against the Prince, the valet against the 
master, the flock against the shepherd, all contending that they find 
their caprices in the Bible, by the method of necessary impHca- 
tion''^ The appeal to Scripture, he contended, was only a disguised 
appeal to the individual reader of Scripture, and therefore, was dis- 
ruptive of all authority. The only feasible alternative was an 
infallible church, the guardian of tradition as well as Scripture. 

Gontery's principle was immediately seized upon by another 
Jesuit, Fran9ois Veron (i 575-1625), who elaborated it into a 
method of his own, by which he became in fact the leading Catholic 
controversialist of his time in France. ^^ He was a type of theo- 
logical writer now happily extinct; a modern reader is likely to be 
impressed chiefly with his bristling manners, his self-satisfaction, 
and his rather stupid insistence on putting all argument in rigid 

3 Trans, from Seconde Partie de la Pierre de touche, pp. 62-63. 

1° Brej et Facile Moyen par lequel toute personne bien Qvelle ne soil versee en 
Theologie, pent par la seule Bible, soil de Geneue, soil autre, ^ par la Confession de 
Joy de la Religion pretendue, faire paroistre euidemment a toute Ministre qu'il abuse^ 
y a tout Religionnaire qu'il est abuse en tous W vn chacun des poinds de sa pretendue 
reformation (Pont-a-Mousson, 1617), 214 pages. Reprinted more than twenty 

This appeared in expanded form as Methode Novvelle, Facile, et Solide de con- 
vaincre de nullite la Religion pretendue reformee en tovs les poincts controuersez; ov; 
La destrvction totale de rheresie; Par la sevle escritvre saincte exposee selon la mesme 
Escritvre, par les Saincts Peres, seants es Conciles des quatre premiers siecles, de 
r impression de Basle, &c. (Paris 1623), Vol. I, 551 pages; Vol. II, 834 pages; 
Vol. Ill, 920 pages. 

In the Avant-Propos of the larger work he tells how he had been assisted in 
controversy by Gontery's advice: "II m'apprend qu'il fallait se tenir sur la defFen- 
sive, & obliger les Ministres selon la loy qu'ils s'estoient prescrite a la pure Escriture, 
qu'ainsi faisant la victoire estoit facile & asseuree en nostre faveur." 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 79 

syllogistic form. His qualities of mind as well as his style of con- 
troversy may be illustrated by a passage from his Methode nouvelle^ 
dealing with the subject "How one should reply to the purely 
philosophical arguments of the [Protestant] Ministers"; 

We are under no obligation to reply to such arguments, as 
much because they have promised to reform us according to Scrip- 
ture, the rule by which [they assert] everything should be examined, 
regulated, and reformed, as because faith is above human and 
philosophical reasoning. Who would believe in the resurrection if 
faith is to be regulated by philosophical axioms? Nevertheless, 
inasmuch as the truth of the faith is not contrary to the truth of 
philosophy and human reason, and as we could easily remain the 
victors in these lists; to win a quick victory (for it is not expedient 
to drag out this battle) it is necessary to observe three precepts 
in this our defense. The first is to force the adversary to state his 
doctrine in direct terms. The second is to confine oneself exactly 
within the formulations of the [Protestant] defender, denying 
simply what it is necessary to deny without producing a great 
many reasons for such negations, and thus oblige the Minister to 
commit himself to the opposite. The third point is, since it is a 
question of ratiocination, never to answer him unless he puts his 
argument in syllogistic form; for as all novices in the art of reason- 
ing know, no deduction has any validity except by virtue of the 
two propositions to which it is joined. If these people excuse them- 
selves by saying that they are not philosophers, retort on them that 
in that case they should not be importuning us in a matter in which 
they are ignorant and in which it is easy to deceive and be deceived 
by sophistical or plausible arguments. Whoever observes these 
precepts will quickly silence these Ministers, who, excessively 
ignorant as they are, would still like to parade a little philosophy 
before the simple-minded populace. Whoever would reply more at 
large, however learned he may be, will injure our cause; for, though 
he may convince the Minister, nevertheless the Minister, having 
more intelligence than the people listening, if he is impudent and 
shameless (as such people are), will doubtless always say in reply 
something that the simple minded cannot understand, and thus 
these simple listeners will remain uncertain as to who is the 
victor, — a matter very prejudicial to the good of their souls, which 
should always be our concern; and our side having so much the 
real advantage, we are- losing too much when we battle in such a 
way that, although victory is really ours, it is not so understood 
by the audience; it is not sufficient to win, unless the victory is 
recognized, and therefore it is necessary to avoid subtleties that 

8o The Milieu of John Dryden 

raise the combatants beyond the level of the spectators. Thus one 
may answer in three words, for example, all that du Moulin argues 
against transubstantiation, in his Bouclier [Shield], part 2, section 
30. One must simply deny his propositions: that if the parts of a 
body do not occupy diferent locations in space, the body can not be 
material; it must be a spirit; it no longer has the dimension of length; 
it is more spiritual than a soul; that a body in two places is not one 
but two bodies, and similar odd fancies. Just deny them, without 
discoursing about our negations, etc. Thus we shall soon make 
these alleged Reformers speechless. ^^ 

This makes amusing reading to-day, but in his time this "ma- 
chine de guerre de nouvelle invention," as Veron called it in his 
dedication to the king, had its effect upon thousands and caused 
his name to be remembered, with both reverence and execration, 
for a century. It is true that his argument was essentially de- 
structive; he made no attempt at any direct proof of the truth of 
Catholic doctrine. But one must remember that Veron, as the 
Abbe Feret has pointed out,^^ began with the assumption that there 
must be some church somewhere which could offer to the indi- 
vidual the necessary certitude in faith and authority in doctrine. 
If Protestantism has no such authority and certitude, the inevi- 
table consequence, according to Veron and his followers, must be 
that the Catholic Church does have it. 

It is obvious, however, that this method was susceptible of far 
greater philosophical development than it received from Veron. 
In his hands it was as rigid and brittle as his mind, and devoid of 
any psychological or metaphysical interest. What it needed, what 
it seemed particularly to call for, was an infusion of that highly 
developed criticism of human knowledge which the revival of 
Greek skepticism had made current and which it is curious that 
Veron should have so completely ignored. But this defect was 
remedied by his successors. 

In England, as well as on the Continent, the problem of the 
authority of the reason in religion was early recognized as fun- 
damental. Circumstanced as the Anglican Church was, the de- 
velopment of its theology in the direction of rationalism was 

^^ Trans, from Methode nouvelle^ I, 504-506. 

^^ Abbe P. Feret, La Faculte de theologie de Paris, ^poque moderne, IV (Paris, 
1906), 56-63. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 8i 

natural and necessary. It had enemies on two sides and needed 
the assistance of reason against both. On the one side were the 
sects, the Puritans and Independents, against whose doctrine of 
the "inner spirit" Hooker had contended that "we therefore stand 
on a plainer ground, when we gather by reason from the quahty of 
things beheved or done, that the Spirit of God hath directed us in 
both, than if we settle ourselves to believe or to do any certain 
particular thing, as being moved thereto by the Spirit. . . . There 
is as yet no way known how to dispute, or to determine of thmgs 
disputed, without the use of natural reason." ^^ On the other side 
were the Catholics proclaiming the necessity of an authoritative 
and infallible church, against whom Chillingworth provided a 
classic defense in his Religion of Protestants (1638). Chillingworth, 
like Hooker, appealed unhesitatingly to reason. His Jesuit ad- 
versary, Edward Knott, had said, for instance, that if the infalli- 
bility of the Church "be once impeached, every man is given over 
to his own wit and discourse." Chillingworth took up the gage: 
". . . if you mean by discourse, right reason grounded on Divine 
revelation, and common notions written by God in the hearts of 
all men, and deducing, according to the never-failing rules of logic, 
consequent deductions from them; if this be it which you mean 
by discourse, it is very meet and reasonable and necessary, that 
men, as in all their actions, so especially in that of greatest impor- 
tance, the choice of their way to happiness, should be left to it; 
and he that follows this in all his opinions and actions, and does 
not only seem to do so, follows always God; whereas he that 
followeth a company of men, may oft-times follow a company of 
beasts." ^^ 

This advanced position of the new Anglican champion was fre- 
quently thereafter attacked by Catholics. "Since the publishing 
of Mr. Chillingworth' s book," wrote Father Cressy, "there ha's 
appeared in England a new Judge of controversies, and much 
defer'd unto there, which is every mans private reasofi interpreting 
Scripture.'^ As for private reason being a judge, he replies: "I 
will shew the impossibility for it to attain the ends for which 
Christ appointed a government in his Church; (viz. unity of minds 

^^ Ecclesiastical Polity y Book III, Chap. VIII, pars. 15 and 17. 
" William Chillingworth, Works (Oxford, 1838), I, 14-15. 

82 The Milieu of John Dry den 

and wills among Christians) together with the unavoidable ab- 
surdities attending such a Judge." His own theory is a develop- 
ment of the statement of Augustine: "That we believe any thing, 
we owe it to authority; that we understand any thing, to reason 
{de util. cred. c. 2.)." He will admit that "Discourse of Reason may, 
and ordinarily does precede belief; but belief it self is not discourse; 
but a simple assent of the understanding. In beliefe we are to dis- 
tinguish between the causes, and the motives of it: and when men 
speak of the last resolution of faith, they intend to consider the last 
motive or authority into which it is resolved, not the primary 
efficient cause of it. Therefore though faith be an act of reason, 
yet it is not said to be resolved into reason, though produced by it, 
but into authority." ^^ Characteristic of the new Catholic apolo- 
getics is the warning of Rushworth: "... what a follie were it for 
a man to venture his soule and conscience upon a subtiltie or 
present flash of wit, whereof peradventure within an hower hee 
him selfe will see the falsitie, and condemne his owne errour. 
Wherefore a Catholike is not to venter the cause upon his owne 
head, not to confesse it weake because he cannot defende it, for 
both may he improue him selfe, and some others perhapps may 
goe farr beyond him." ^^ Against such instability of the reason he 
contrasted the rock of authority of the infallible church. 

It was therefore becoming more and more clear up to 1660 that 
the question of religious knowledge and authority was the great 
crux of the whole complicated controversy; and on this question 
both sides concentrated their efforts. ^^ The Anglicans were com- 
ing frankly to recognize that their final appeal must be to the 
power of the individual reason to interpret Scripture, and the 

^ Hugh Cressy, Exomologesis (Paris, 1647), pp. 387, 415-419; 2d ed. (1653), 
pp. 283, 303-306. Father Cressy was a Benedictine of Douay who came to England 
after the Restoration as chaplain to Queen Catherine, and exercised great influence 
in Catholic circles. Dryden mentions him in his Preface to Rdigio Laid. 

^* William Rushworth, Dialogues (Paris, 1640), p. 342. 

" A similar change was taking place from 1640 on in France; the principle 
of authority became the center of the controversy, and the Roman Catholics dwelt 
particularly on the multiplicity of Protestant sects as evidence that Protestantism 
possessed no effective inner principle of authority. The classic expression of this 
argument is of course Bossuet's Histoire des variations des eglises protestanUs (1688). 
See Alfred Rebelliau, Bossuet, Historian du Protestantisme, 3d ed. (Paris, 1909), 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 83 

Roman Catholics devoted themselves particularly to a destructive 
criticism of this kind of religious authority. The controversial 
tactics of Gontery and Veron became the standard tactics of Eng- 
lish Catholicism of the seventeenth century. 

But although the issue was thus growing in definiteness in the 
first half of the century, it must not be supposed that these de- 
velopments were universally approved within the respective parties 
to the controversy. Some Anglicans voiced the fear that the 
rationalism of Chillingworth was indistinguishable from Socinian- 
ism, and Catholic writers, of course, joined in the cry.^^ The 
charge was not true, and was later dropped, at least among An- 
glicans, when these new controversial developments became more 
universally understood. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic 
diatribes against reason also struck the age as in some degree 
novel, and did not escape censure even among the Catholics them- 
selves. We have a significant comment on them from the famous 
Thomas White, who later crossed swords with Glanvill over skep- 
ticism and whose writings, says Dodd, ''made a great noise in the 
world." ^® White was no critic of the reason; he was for certainty 
both in philosophy and in religion.^ He criticized severely such 
Protestants as, with Chillingworth, admitted that they believed 
on evidence, not on authority, and would willingly change their 
religion should new evidence seem to tip the balance against it; 
who admitted that for historical facts, whether secular or religious, 
we can have at best a "moral certainty"; a new branch, says 
White, shoots out ''from the old oak of reformation and boldly 
professes it enough to guess at Tenets of Religion, and that we 

^^ John Tulloch, Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy in England in 
the Seventeenth Centuryy 2d ed. (Edinburgh, 1874), I> 296 ff.; Hugh Cressy, E.xo- 
mologesis (ed. 1653), p. 283; Richard Baxter, Saints' Everlasting Rest, Preface 
to Part II. 

^' Dodd's Church History of England (Brussels, 1742), III, 285. Dodd quotes 
Wood's Athenae Oxonienses to the effect that Hobbes and White used to visit one 
another, "but seldom parted in cold blood. For they would wrangle, squabble, 
and scold about philosophical matters, like young sophisters, tho' either of them 
was eighty years old." This little vignette suggests vividly the ease with which 
Roman Catholic clergy operated in the London of Charles II. 

2° As in his Religion and Reason Mutually corresponding and assisting each 
other (Paris, 1660). 

84 The Milieu of John Dryden 

ought to be ready (if more reason should appear) to change the 
Bible for the Alcoran; . . . these dehcate BeHevers content their 
easie and civil natures with a dow-bak't probability, as if they were 
little concern'd, whether the Religion they profest were true or 
false." Unfortunately, he must admit, there were similar errors 
current among the Catholics: "Yet Fie not do them the wrong," 
he continues, " to say, they had not some ground or rather occasion 
out of some of our Divines; who (raising more dust then they were 
able to keep out of their own eyes) seem to have unawares con- 
tributed to the hatching of this dangerous Cockatrice, Incertitude, 
which these bold Reformers have at last shewed to the world, like 
the Abomination of Desolation standing in the Temple, to be abhorr'd 
by all Christians hearts and true lovers of vertue." ^^ But in spite 
of such criticism and opposition, both Anglican rationalism and 
Roman Catholic Pyrrhonism continued their development and 
dominated in the controversies after the Restoration. 

Purely as an exigency of controversy, then, this fideistic and 
traditionalistic mode of thought arose and spread early in the 
seventeenth century, first in France and then in England. It is 
apparently unrelated to any secular movement, such as that of 
Montaigne's disciples; its exponents are innocent of Sextus Em- 
piricus; it was but faintly tinged, if at all, with any old religious 
tradition such as Augustinianism. It was what Veron had called 
it, an *' engine of war." No doubt it proved very successful in 

2^ Preface to Rushworth's Dialogues . . . Corrected and enlargd by Thomas 
White, Gent. (Paris, 1654). The "dow-bak't probability" of which White accused 
the Protestants should not be confused with Pyrrhonism; it refers to the Protestant 
position regarding historical evidences in religion. The Catholics declared that 
the historical element in Christianity, like its doctrines, must be believed on the 
authority of the Church; the Protestants admitted that absolute demonstration is 
in such matters impossible, but that we may content ourselves with a "moral cer- 
tainty" that the facts of history were as they are represented. The doctrine of 
"moral certainty" was therefore one of the alternatives to Roman infallibility of 
faith. For representative passages in this controversy see: Chillingworth, ed. 
cited, I, 114 fF.; II, 317 fF.; Edward Knott, Infidelity Vnmasked or the Confutation 
of a Booke Published by Mr. William Chillingworth (Ghent, 1652), pp. 102-103; 
E. Stillingfleet, Origines Sacrae (Oxford, 1836), I, 132 ff.; Edward Worsley's 
criticism of Stillingfleet in Protestancy without Principles (Antwerp, 1668), 49-62; 
and Johannes de la Placette, The Incurable Scepticism of the Church of Rome, 
translated by Tenison (1688), Chap. I. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 85 

proselytizing both in France and in England; for by 1660 it had 
become a major weapon, ready for the great campaigns waged by 
the Roman Catholics in England between the Restoration of 
Charles II and the flight of James 11. 


Theological controversy underwent some change with the Res- 
toration, no less than the other aspects of the intellectual and 
moral life of the nation. But the change in Roman Catholic apolo- 
getics was chiefly in the accentuation of elements already present, 
and their adaptation to the prevailing mode of thought in English 
society under Charles II. All forms of sophistication flourished in 
the reign of the merr}^ monarch as never before; among the teach- 
ings which then fell on fruitful soil and multiplied a hundredfold 
were those of philosophical skepticism in its ancient and modern 
forms, in Sextus Empiricus and the Academics, in Montaigne and 
Charron and Sir Thomas Browne. Roman Catholic propagandists, 
who were sensitive to the new intellectual atmosphere and desired 
to conduct their controversies with intellectual as well as social 
finesse, put their emphasis on fideism and traditionalism as never 

Throughout the period Anglicans voiced their sense of the 
scandal to religion in these tactics. Gilbert Burnet has left a notice 
of this new phenomenon in controversy; he observes in his History: 

And now that the main principles of religion w^ere struck at by 
Hobbes and his followers, the papists acted upon this a very strange 
part. They went in so far even into the argument for atheism, as 
to publish many books in which they affirmed, that there was no 
certain proof of the Christian religion, unless we took it from the 
authority of the church as infallible. This was such a delivering 
up of the cause to them, that it raised in all good men a very high 
indignation at popery; that party shewing, that they chose to 
make men who would not turn papists become atheists, rather than 
believe Christianity upon other ground than infallibility.-'- 

This statement by Burnet — and those of other Anglicans, like 
Tillotson, who used the same phrasing — may seem harsh and un- 

" History of My Own Time, ed. Osmund Airy (Oxford, 1897), Part I, I, 335. 

86 The Milieu of John Dryden 

intelligent; Pyrrhonism and atheism are not equivalent terms. 
And yet Burnet correctly interpreted the situation and the di- 
lemma raised by the Roman Catholic tactics; for an Anglican 
who was convinced by the skeptical argument would naturally 
find it difficult to remain an Anglican; his choice must have 
been between atheism and submission to the authority of Rome. 
Skepticism became a highroad leading from Anglicanism to Rome; 
and any man who, like Dryden, betrayed the influence of Pyr- 
rhonism in his religious ideas, was likely to be branded indiscrimi- 
nately as a "papist" or a man of no religion.^^ 

Among the most famous Roman Catholic books of the period 
was Fiat Lux,^^ by a Franciscan, John Vincent Canes. Appearing 
immediately after the Restoration, it struck the appropriate and 
popular note of genial tolerance. "There is no colour of reason or 
just title," this is the substance of the first chapter, "may move 
us to quarrell and judge one another with so much heat about 
religion.'* The second gives us the philosophical "motive to 
moderation": "All things are so obscure that no man in prudence 
can so far presume of his own knowledge as to set up himself a guide 
in Religion to his neighbour." From this point the reader is gently 
led through the succeeding chapters to the shelter of Catholic 

John Owen, the eminent Independent preacher, immediately 
published a voluminous answer.^ Of first importance for our 
purposes is a passage in which he indicates how the style and 
argument of Fiat Lux was adapted to the new temper of the 

^^ Likewise the Roman Catholic appeal to the infallible authority of the Church 
lent itself to confusion with the "atheistical" doctrine of state authority in religion 
promulgated by Hobbes. See, for instance, A Brief and Impartial Account of the 
Nature of the Protestant Religion (London, 1682), p. 28. 

^ Fiat Lux, or, A general Conduct to a right understanding in the great Combus- 
tions and Broils about Religion here in England. Betwixt Baptist and Protestant, 
Presbyterian ^ Independent To the end That Moderation and Quietness may at 
length hapily ensue after so various Tumults in the Kingdom. By Mr. J. V . C. a 
friend To men of all Religions. . . . 1661. It was dedicated to the Countess of 
Arundel and Surrey, mother of Philip Thomas Howard, later Cardinal of Norfolk. 
Reprinted in 1662 and 1665. 

" Animadversions on a Treatise Intituled Fiat Lux (London, 1662), 440 pages. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 87 

Unto the ensuing whole Chapter [that is, the second], wherein 
our Author expatiates, with a most luxuriant Oratory, throughout; 
and oft times soars with Poeticall raptures, in setting forth the 
obscurity and darkness of all things, our ignorance and disability 
to attain a right and perfect knowledge of them, canting by the 
way, many of those pretty Notions, which the Philosophical dis- 
coursive men of our dayes do use to whet their wits upon, over a 
glass of Wine: I have not much to offer: Nor should I once reflect 
upon that discourse, were it not designed to another end, than that 
which it is ushered in by, as the thing aymed to be promoted by it. 
Forbearance of one another in our several perswasions, on a sense 
of our infirmity and weaknesse, and the obscurity of those things, 
about which our minds and contemplations are conversant, is 
flourished at the entrance of this Harangue: After a small prog- 
resse, the Snake begins to hiss in the grass, and in the Close openly 
to shew it selfe, in an enticement unto an imbracing of the Roman- 
Religion; which, it seems will disentangle our minds out of that 
maze about the things of God and Man, in which, without its guid- 
ance, we must wander for ever. As for his Philosophicall notions, I 
suppose they were only vented, to shew his skill in the Learned 
talks of this Age, and to toll on the Gallants, whom he hath most 
hope to enveagle; knowing them to be Candidates for the most 
part, unto that Scepticism which is grown the entertainment of 
Tables and Taverns. How a man that is conversant in his thoughts 
about Religion, and his choice of, or settlement therein, should 
come to have any concernment in this Discourse, I cannot imagine. 
That God, who is infinitely wise, holy^ good, who perfectly knows 
all his own excellencies, hath revealed so much of Himself, his 
Mind, and Will, in reference to the Knowledg which he requires 
of himself, and Obedience unto him, as is suflftcient to guide us 
whilst we are here below, to steer our Course in our subjection to 
him, and dependence on him, in a manner acceptable unto him, 
and to bring us to our utmost end and blessednesse in the enjoy- 
ment of him: This Protestants think sufficient for them, who as 
they need not, so they desire not to be wise above what is written; 
nor to know more of God, than he hath so revealed of himself, 
that they may know it. . . . Thus are poor unstable souls ventured 
to the Borders of Atheisme, under a pretence of leading them to 
the Church.26 

The formula of objurgation became a commonplace in the 
Anglican apologetics in the seventeenth century. It is "the general 
unhappiness of most of the popish arguments," wrote Tillotson 
26 Ibid., pp. 148-156. 

88 The Milieu of John Dry den 

in his Rule of Faith (1666), that they strike not only "at prot- 
estancy, but at Christian rehgion." ^^ 

In 1665 Edward StilHngfleet struck at the doctrine of papal 
infalHbiHty in his Rational Account of the Grounds of the Protestant 
Religion. And in the same year appeared another famous CathoHc 
book of controversy, Sure-Footing in Christianity^ dedicated tO' the 
Queen, the work of the widely known John Sergeaunt. This book 
arrives at the same conclusion as Fiat Lux, but by a different path. 
Sergeaunt was a man of philosophical interests who devised a 
curious system of reasoning all his own. His quarrel with the 
Protestants, he wishes us first to believe, was not so much that 
they relied on reasoning as that not one of them had the happiness 
to understand the true principles of that science. His volume 
bore the subtitle. Rational Discourses on the -.Rule of Faith. He 
first defined the nature and properties of that rule: ** namely, it 
must be plain and self-evident as to its Existence to all and 
Evidenceable as to its Ruling Power to enquirers even the ruder 
vulgar, apt to settle and justify undoubting persons, to satisfy 
fully the most Sceptical Dissenters and rational Doubters, and to 
convince the most obstinate and acute Adversaries, built upon 
unmoveable Grounds, that is: Certain in it self, and absolutely as- 
certainable to us." 2^ No Protestant rule of faith could show that 
it possessed these necessary properties — or indeed pretended to 
possess them. But Roman Catholic authority constitutes such a 
rule for the believer who accepts it implicitly, who submits to it for 
the a priori reason that it is guaranteed by the "Divine Veracit}^"; 
such submission Sergeaunt called a "Rational Assent" and he said 

" Part II, sec. iii, par. 4. In Works (ed. 1742), IV, 604. One might multiply 
quotations to this effect indefinitely. The following from the Rule of Faith will 
serve as illustrations: 

"Is it not very pretty to see what pitiful shifts men that serve an hypothesis 
are put to? when, to maintain infallibility, they are forced to run to the extremities 
of scepticism. ..." — Part II, sec. iii, par. 7 (ed. cited, IV, 609). 

" Pyrrho himself never advanced any principle of scepticism beyond this, viz. 
that men ought to question the credit of all books, concerning which they cannot 
demonstrate as to every sentence in them, that the particle not was not inserted 
(if it be affirmative) or left out (if it be negative)." — Part II, sec. v, par. i (ed. 
cited, IV, 646). 

28 Sure-Footing in Christianity (London, 1665), pp. 11-12. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 89 

that it "establishes my Faith against the assaults of any doubts 
from Humane Reasons." ^^ After this leap from philosophy to 
authority there can therefore be no further appeal to the reason as 
judge in any matter of religious doubt or debate. Consequently, 
though Sergeaunt begins with a great show of reasoning, his con- 
clusions are as inimical to rationalism as were those of Fiat 

It was in reply to Sure-Footing that Tillotson wrote his 
Rule of Faithy^^ already noticed and quoted. Daniel Whitby, a 
Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, published in the same year a 
pamphlet against both Sergeaunt and Canes, in which he set forth 
the Protestant doctrines in a systematic manner, with propo- 
sitions and corollaries.^^ He asserted that ''nothing can be judge 
in any case but Reason." Even in the decisions of the Church, 
"Reason must still become their Judge, for sure they must have 
motives to encline them either way." " Hence I infer, That Reason 
cannot be rejected, as unsure, and unsufficient to ground an Article 
of Faith upon; for the certainty of our whole Faith depending 
upon that of Reason, it must fall together with it. So that to 
quarrel with the use of Reason upon that account, (as Papists 
usually do) is in effect to quarrel with Religion and Christian- 
ity." 32 

How acute the situation was becoming is apparent from the 
rather remarkable change of mind of Joseph Glanvill, who in 1664 
had been elected to the Royal Society as the champion of the 
scepsis scientifica. In 1670 he put forth a pamphlet in defense of 
reason against its detractors.^^ He addressed himself to those 
Protestants who with evangelical fervor had been declaiming from 
the pulpit against rationalism in religion. He warned them that 

29 Ibid., p. 182. 

3° The Rule of Faith, published in 1666, was reprinted in 1676 and 1688. 

31 AOS nOT STfi, or. An Answer to Sure Footing, So far as Mr. Whitby is 
concerned in it. Wherein the Rule and Guide of Faith, the Interest of Reason, and the 
Authority of the Church in Matters of Faith, are fully handled and vindicated; From 
the Exceptions of Mr. Serjeant, and the Petty Flirts of Fiat Lux . . . (Oxford, 1666). 

32 Ibid., p. 5. 

33 AOrOT ePHSKEIA: Or, A Seasonable Recommendation, and Defence of 
Reason, In the Affairs of Religion; against Infidelity, Scepticism and Fanaticisms of 
all sorts (London, 1670). 36 pages. 

90 The Milieu of John Dryden 

they were laboring to the advantage of the enemies of the Angli- 
can Church: 

And now give me leave to speak a word to YoUy my Brethren 
of the Clergy, {Those, I mean of the Younger sort, for I shall not 
presume to teach my Elders). You have heard, no donhtyf requenty 
and earnest declamations against Reason, during the years of your 
Education. . . . And I shall not wonder if you have been possessed 
with very hard thoughts of this pretended terrible enemy of Faith, 
and Religion. . . . But yet, I shall beg leave to refresh your thoughts, 
with some Considerations of the dangerous tendencies and 
issues of such Preachments. 

(i) To disclaim Reason, as an Enemy to Religion, tends to the 
introduction of Atheism, Infidelity, and Scepticism; and hath already 
brought in afloud of these upon us. . . . These are the Consequences 
of the defamations of Reason, on the pretended account of Religion; 
and we have seen, in multitudes of deplorable Instances, That they 
follow in practice, as well as reasoning. Men oi corrupt inclinations, 
suspect that there is No Reason for our Faith, and Religion, and so 
are upon the borders of quitting it; And the Enthusiast, that pre- 
tends to know Religion best, tells them, that these Suspicions are 
very true; and thence the Debauchee gladly makes the desperate 
Conclusion. And when others also hear Reason disparaged as un- 
certain, various, a.nd fallacious, they deny all credit to their Faculties, 
and become confounded Scepticks, that settle in nothing. This I 
take to have been one of the greatest, and most deadly occasion 
of the Atheism of our days; and he that hath rejected Reason, may 
be one when he pleaseth, and cannot reprehend, or reduce, any one, 
that is so already. 

(2) The Denial of Reason in Religion hath been the principal 
Engine, that Hereticks, and Enthusiasts have used against the Faith; 
and that which lays us open to infinite follies, and impostures. . . . 

(3) By the same way great advantage is given to the Church of 
Rome; which those of that Profession know very well; and there- 
fore Perronius, Gonterius, Arnoldus, Veronius, and other Jesuites, 
have loudly declaimed against Reason; and the last mentioned, 
Veronius, presented the World with a Method to overthrow Here- 
ticks, (meaning those of the Protestant Faith) which promised 
more than ordinary; And that was, to deny, and renounce all 
Principles o{ Reason in affairs oi Faith absolutely, and roundly; and 
not to vouchsafe an Answer to any Argument against Transub- 
stantiation, or any other Article of their new Faith; but point-blank 
to deny whatever Reason saith, in such matters. And he affirms 
that even these Principles of Reason, viz. Non entis non sunt 
Attributa: at omne quod est, quando est, necesse est esse; and such 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 91 

like which are the. foundations of all reasoning, are dangerous to the 
Catholick Faith; and therefore not to be heeded. This man speaks 
outy and affirms directly, and boldly, what the other enemies of 
Reason imply; but will not own. This is a Method to destroy 
Hereticks in earnest; but the mischief is, all Christians, and all other 
Religions, and all other reasonings are cut off by the same Sword. 
This Book, and Method of Veronius was kindly received by the 
Pope,^'* priviledged, by the King of Spain, approved by Cardinals, 
Archbishops, Bishops, and all the Gallick Clergy, as solid, and for 
the advantage of Souls; and the Sorbone Doctors gave it their 
approbation, and recommended it as the only way to confute Here- 
ticks. Did these know what they recommended? And did they, 
think we, understand the interests of the Roman Church .? If so, we 
kindly serve their ends, and promote their Designs in the way, 
which they account best, while we vilifie, and disparage Reason. 
If This be renounced in matters of Religion, with what face can 
we use it against the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, or any other 
Points of the Roman Creed? Would it not be blameless, and irre- 
provable for us to give up our understandings implicitly to the Dic- 
tates, and Declarations of that Church ? May we not follow blindly 
whatever the Infallible Man at Rome, and his Councils, say? And 
would it not be vain self-contradiction to use Arguments against 
their Decrees, though they are never so unreasonable ? Or to alledge 
Consequences from Scripture against any of their Articles, though 
never so contrary to the Holy Oracles? How easily may They re- 
joyn, when we dispute against them; You argue from Reason, and 
by Consequences; But Reason is dull, and carnal, and an enemy to 
the things of the Spirit, and not to be heard in the high matters of 
Religion ? And what can we say next, if we consent to the Accu 
sation? I say, by this way, we perfectly disable, or grossly con- 
tradict our selves in most of our disputes against the Romanists: 
And we are very disingenious in our dealings, while we use Reason 
against them, and deny It, when 'tis urged against our selves by 
another sort of Adversaries: which implies, that when we say, 
Reason is not to be heard, we mean, 'Tis not to be heard against us; 
But It must, against the Church of Rome; or any others we can 
oppugn by It. Thus, I say, our denying Reason in Religion is either 
very humoursome, and partial; or, 'tis a direct yielding up our 
selves to our enemies, and doing that our selves, which is the only 
thing They desire, to undo us, and to promote their own interests 
upon our Ruines.^^ 

'^ The tradition to the effect that Veron's Methode received the approbation 
of Urban VIII is wrong, according to the Abbe Feret, op. cit., IV, 62, n. i. 
^ Glanvill, op. cit., pp. 29-34. 

92 The Milieu of John Dryden 

Dangers to the English Church which could necessitate so much 
italicization must have been very serious; and certainly Glanvill's 
analysis makes it clear that there were other powerful forces be- 
sides the vague *' spirit of the age " to explain the increasing rational- 
ism of the Anglicans in the seventeenth century. 

At the risk of some repetition it may be well also to comment 
on Glanvill's associating under one general tendency three such 
widely divergent parties as the "fanatic enthusiasts," the atheists, 
and the Catholics. Glanvill, who as a disciple had penetrated to 
a real understanding of skepticism, saw clearly what we have 
observed earlier, that a simple form of evangelical piety may on 
occasion have the same effect on religious thought as an outright 
philosophical skepticism; or, to put it in terms of historical tra- 
ditions, the influence of Augustine sometimes parallels or inter- 
weaves with the influence of Montaigne or Sextus Empiricus. 
Consequently, in an age when Catholicism seemed about to pros- 
per again in England, the anti-intellectual piety of the evangel- 
icals, both in the Anglican Church and among the dissenters, 
became dangerous in an unexpected new way. And it was not pure 
fancifulness or malevolence in the Anglicans to accuse the sec- 
taries, in religion as in politics, of aiding the party of Rome. 

But there were dissenters of many kinds, and some of them, 
such as Baxter,^^ were as rationalistic as the leaders of the Church 
of England. In 1676 fifteen Non-conformist leaders, including 
Manton and Baxter, issued a manifesto ^^ which bears interesting 
witness to the importance the subject had assumed in public dis- 
cussion in the decade before Dryden's Religio Laid. 

Among the other Church-troubling Controversies of these times 
[so they began], we find it is one, and not the least. How far Mans 
Reason hath to do in matters of Religion: And deep accusations we 
find brought against each other on this account; some suspecting 
others of Socinianisme, as overmagnifying Reason, and others in- 

^ See especially Saints^ Everlasting Rest, Preface to Part II, as it was ex- 
panded in the later editions. 

^^ The Judgment of Non-conformists, of the Interest of Reason in matters of 
Religion. In which It is proved against Make-bates, that both Conformists, and Non- 
conformists, and all Parties of true Protestants are herein really agreed, though unskilful 
Speakers difer in Words (London, 1676). 2i pages. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 93 

simulating such as they seem to differ from, as guilty of making 
Religion seem unreasonable; and some (who go over the Hedge 
where it is low) do lay this charge of unreasonableness, in special, 
on the Non-conformists. 

They sought to avoid this "scandalous Contention" in the future 
by a series of careful definitions and statements of principle, to 
which they believed both dissenters and Anglicans would be able 
to subscribe; but they did not pretend to satisfy ''Quakers, 
Seekers, Papists, Antinomians, or any such Sect which are more 
than Meer Non-conformists.'* There had been in the past, they 
admitted, serious arguments and accusations: ''We deny not but 
some Non-conformists, and Conformists did cast out their sus- 
pitions of two very Learned rational Men, Mr. Hales, and Mr. 
Chillingworthy as if they had favoured Socinianisme, because they 
so much used, and Ascribed to Reason, in Judging of matters of 
Religion; and Knot the Jesuite would have Chillingworth therefore 
taken to be a Socinian." ^^ But those disputes, they said, were 
private disputes between particular men, and should not be re- 
garded as the judgments of the churches. They now wished it 
understood that there was a Non-Conformity which was ready to 
unite with "all Parties of true Protestants '* against those who 
would renounce the use of reason in religion. 

The Roman Catholic controversialists were also ready with a 
reply to those who accused them of disseminating "atheism" in 
the interest of their own religion. Their answer was, of course, 
that they were misunderstood; their skepticism was merely a pro- 
paedeutic to faith, to be superseded by faith; it was only a method 
for showing, by beginning with a hypothetical assumption of Prot- 
estant principles, that these principles contained within themselves 
the seed of their own destruction. Thus Canes retorted rather 
superciliously to Owen, that in Fiat Lux he had treated 

... a case of metaphysical concernment, which you apprehend 
not. ... I speak wholly there, as in other parts o{ Fiat Lux, upon 
a supposition of the condition, the generality of people are now 
actually in, here in Englandy where every one lets himself loose at 
pleasure to frame opinions and religions of themselves. And so 

38 Ibid., p. 6. 

94 The Milieu oj John Dryden 

cannot be thought to speak of a settled beHef, but only of a settling 
one, or one to be settled. . . . Perhaps it is hard for you to con- 
ceiv your self in a state you are not actually in at present: And if 
you cannot do this, you will be absolutely unfit to deal with such 
hypothetik discourses, as I see indeed you are. . . . And I cannot 
but tell you, whatsoever you think of your self, you are in truth, 
except you dissemble and mistake on purpose, but a weak man, 
to take that as spoken absolutely by me, and by way of positiv 
doctrine, which I only deliver upon an hypothesis apparent to all 
the world besides your self." ^^ 

That is, skepticism was a useful controversial weapon. But this 
argument assumes that further distinction between reason and 
faith which was held also by those Roman Catholics, such as 
Edward Worsley and John Sergeaunt, who admitted a rational 
evidence previous to faith: the distinction, namely, that reason 
appeals to evidence but faith accepts authority. By this distinc- 
tion — which the Protestants refused to recognize as valid — the 
certainty of faith was supposed to be preserved even after the most 
devastating criticism of rational evidence. To this distinction 
Edward Worsley appealed in a reply to Glanvill's attack on Catho- 
lic ''sceptics," already quoted: 

Other Flawes I find in this Gentlemans Discourse, but haue 
not time to pursue halfe of them. Here is One, and of main Im- 
portance also. He neuer rightly distinguisheth, between that Ob- 
iect wherevpon Reason rest's, And the Obiect of Faith, Considered 
in it self. Reason euer precedes Faith, and is grounded vpon those 
rational Motiues which Induce to Belieue. Faith, precisely Con- 
sidered as Faithy relies vpon a quite Different Obiect, God's pure 
Reuelation^ and cannot Discourse, For the Reasons giuen aboue 
not here to be repeated. Only know thus Much in passing. That 
the wrong done by this Author to the Learned Perron, Veron, and 
Others, hath its Origin from this Ouersight, of not distinguishing 
between the Obiect of Reason, and Faith. These Saith He, loudly 
declaim against Reason, All know it very well. I Answer, they 
declaim against Reasoning or Arguing, in the very intrinsick Act 
or Tendency of Faith (For Fides non quaerit cur, aut quomodo) is 
most true, and So you and the whole world must do, if you Belieue. 

" Three Letters . . . Written hy J. V. C. (1671), pp. 34-35, and 45-46. The 
first letter, here quoted, is dated 1663 and was apparently first printed in that 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 95 

They declaim against Reason, or all rational Discourse built vpon 
Manifest Motiues Inductiue to Faith, is a Calumny, and most 

Whatever the logician may think of the tangle of logic, the his- 
torian will recognize here again Veron's *' machine de guerre de 
nouvelle invention," playing its part in the theological warfare of 
the reign of Charles II. 

Although England was inundated with controversial pamphlets 
in the short reign of James,^^ there was nothing new in Roman 
Catholic propaganda except the unprecedented quantity of it. It 
was nowno longer necessary to print books in English on the French 
presses of Paris or Douai, sometimes with accents on the vowels, 
and smuggle them into England. Under the new monarch Catho- 
lics enjoyed the privilege of printing in London. And the press of 
Henry Hills, "Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty for 
His Household and Chappel," poured forth a stream of Catholic 
books and pamphlets **Publish'd with Allowance." The Angli- 
cans countered vigorously with an even greater inundation and 
left nothing unanswered; every possible phase of the Protestant- 
Catholic controversy was debated over and over in the four years 
of the reign of James. With most of this we are not concerned. 
We are interested primarily in the problem of authority in religion, 
and this problem was recognized at this time by both sides to be 
the fundamental question of the whole controversy.^"^ It became 
particularly acute with the publication of the posthumous papers 
of Charles II ^^ and the answer to them by Stillingfleet. From this 

^° Reason and Religion (Antwerp, 1672), p. 605. 

*^ See Catalogue of the Collection of Tracts for and against Popery in the Man- 
chester Library, ed. Thomas Jones, in Publications of the Chetham Society, Vols. 
XLVIII (1859) and LXIV (1865). Further bibliographical information is given 
in Appendix A of this volume. 

^"^ See, for instance, John Williams, A Short Discourse Concerning the Churches 
Authority in Matters of Faith (London, 1687), Preface, and pp. 6 and 22; Mr. 
Claude's Answer to Monsieur de Meaux's Book, Intituled, A Conference with Mr. 
Claude (London, 1687), "An Advertisement from the Translator to the Reader," 
p. xxii. 

*' Copies of Two Papers Written by the Late King Charles II. Together with a 
Copy of a Paper written by the late Dutchess of York. Published by His Majesties 
Command (London, 1686); and An Answer to some Papers Lately Printed, con- 
cerning the Authority of the Catholic k Church in Matters of faith (London, 16S6). 

g6 The Milieu of John Dryden 

vast mass of repetitious controversy one or two illustrations must 

In 1687 Joshua Bassett, who had been made master of Sidney 
College, Cambridge, by James II the preceding year, published 
his Reason and Authority: or the Motives of a late Protestants Rec- 
onciliation to the Catholic Church. Thomas Bam bridge, Fellow of 
Trinity College, Cambridge, replied later in the same year with An 
Answer to a Book Entituled, Reason and Authority. This is how he 
summarized the apostate's autobiography: 

I have just now read over a late Book, entituled Reason and 
Authority; I read it with an excess of pleasure, being surprized 
and amazed to find Reason so baffled, and a monstrous Authority 
advanced against all reason. Non-sense, I perceive, is in fashion; 
and if I and You have as little sense, and are as impertinent as 
others, I may be a Writer, and You a Reader. 

I perceive by that Book, that a certain Man has left our Church 
without reason: He was advised to take reason, and make the 
best use of it in the choice of his Religion, and the setling of his 
life and practice in order to salvation; but he could find no reason 
to serve him. He narrowly escaped being an Atheist with reason, 
and had almost denyed the Being of a God, or at least his Provi- 
dence, with reason; and something that looked like to a demon- 
stration against the immortality of the Soul had so confounded 
him, that he was up head and ears in the water all soused, and 
plunged in the doubt, and whether he is yet out of it, we know not. 

The Man goes on and considers the grounds of Religion, the 
Jewish and the Christian; and finds little reason to think that the 
five Books commonly ascribed to Moses, were ever written by him; 
he finds so many mistakes, and so many errours in the beginning 
of Genesis, that he gives you to guess his meaning, though he will 
not speak it, to be, that the Jewish Religion is little else than a 
forgery, and that it has but small evidence of a Revelation from 
God Almighty. 

Thus leaving the Jewish Religion, the Man in all haste goes to 
the Christian, and considers the New Testament, as the Book which 
all Christians in all Ages have owned, to be the Records of the 
Christian Doctrine: He does not say by whom they were written, 
but at the reading of the first Chapter of St. Matthew he was hair'd 
out of his wits; He met with such difficulties, that his reason could 
not answer, if he brought any with him to the reading of it; for 
it is to be suspected that he used none, because a little reason in 
such a case as this, would at this time have lead him to have con- 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 97 

suited his Authority. For if he, whom this Man calls God's 
Vicegerent, and the great Elias, that is supposed to solve all doubts, 
can say no more to this difficulty, than he himself could, he might 
have kept his Reason still, as bad as it was, and have been content 
to be ignorant with Reason, as well as under Authority. . . . 

But when Reason, and the Holy Scriptures are to be thrown 
down, it is no great wonder, if the Bishops of the Church of Eng- 
land fall with them.''^ 

A more temperate and reasoned examination of the question is 
found in a very important preface '' concerning the Nature of Cer- 
tainty and Infallibility" in William Sherlock's A Discourse Con- 
cerning a Judge of Controversies in Matters of Religion (1686) : 

It is thought (and certainly it is so) the most compendious way 
to reduce Protestants to the Communion of the Church of Rome, 
to perswade them, that they can have no certainty of their Re- 
ligion without an infallible Judge, and that there is no Infallibility 
but in the Church oi Rome: Now could they prove that the Church 
of Rome is infallible, this indeed would be an irresistible Reason 
to return to her Communion; but this they say little of now-a- 
days, this they would gladly have us take for granted, especially 
if they can prove that we can have no certainty without an in- 
fallible Judge, and therefore this they apply themselves to, to run 
down Protestant certainty, and first to make men Scepticks in 
Religion, and then to settle them upon Infallibility. 

Now the way they take to do this, is not by shewing that the 
Reasons on which Protestants build their Faith, either of Chris- 
tianity in General, or of those particular Doctrines which they 
profess, are not sufficient to found a rational Certainty on; for 
this would engage them in particular Disputes, which is the thing 
they as industriously avoid, as if they were afraid of it; but instead 
of this, they declaim in general about the nature of Certainty; ask 
us, how we know we are Certain; if we rely upon Reason, other 
men do not reason as we do, and yet think their Reason as good 
as ours; if on Scripture, we see how many different and contrary 
Expositions there are of Scripture; and how can we be certain 
then that we only are in the right, when other men are as confident, 
and as fully perswaded as we.? 

Whereupon Sherlock restated in a succinct way the position of the 
Anglicans regarding the use of reason in religion. "^^ In the Biblio- 

*^ An Answer to a Book Eniitul/rd, Reason and Authority (London, 16S7), pp. 1-2 
and 10. 

"^ Sherlock's pamphlet is reprinted in Edmund Gibson's A Preservative against 
Popery, ed. John Gumming (London, 1848), IV, 298-381. 

98 The Milieu of John Dryden 

the que universelle et historique, August, 1687, Jean le Clerc reviewed 
Sherlock's volume and took occasion to signalize the trend of con- 

Quelques Controversistes Catholiques Romains ont fait beau- 
coup valoir en Angleterre un raisonnement, qu'avoit fait aupara- 
vant beaucoup de bruit en France. C'est que les hommes etant 
d'eux memes sujets a se tromper, on ne pourroit avoir aucune cer- 
titude de la verite de sa Religion, si Dieu n'avoit donne a I'Eglise 
un esprit d'infallibilite, sur lequel on put se reposer sans crainte 
d'etre trompe. M. Sherlock, Docteur en Theologie, que Ton assure 
etre Auteur de ce Livre, entreprend d'y repondre dans une Preface 
assez longue qui est au devant, & qui n'est pas sans doute le 
moindre endroit de cet ouvrage. . . .^^ 

Such was the intellectual milieu of the skeptically inclined John 
Dryden when he submitted to the authority of the Roman Catholic 
Church and wrote The Hind and the Panther. 

In casting a glance in retrospect over this survey it is evident 
that the ideas of John Dryden were not his peculiar property. 
They were representative ideas of the age, growing out of the 
dominant temper of the age, which happened also to be the temper 
of Dryden himself. But before we can proceed to a demonstration 
of this close interrelation between Dryden and his milieu, we must 
examine Father Simon's Histoire critique du Vieux Testament smd 
its English translation, which furnished the occasion for Religio 


Father Simon's great work, which marked an epoch in the his- 
tory of Biblical criticism, was the result of a life of special oppor- 
tunities and great concentration of scholarly effort. As a member 
of the Oratory of Paris, Simon had been permitted to devote his 
whole time to research in Biblical questions. He became one of 
the most erudite Biblical scholars of any age; he handled with the 
power and sureness of a master the enormous volume of learning on 
the Scriptural text, a learning which was of course complicated by 
intricate traditions of exegesis and controversy; in knowledge of the 
Oriental languages he was rivaled by few; he had studied closely 

^ Bibliotheque universdU et historiquey VI, 295-296. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 99 

all types of Biblical manuscripts and representative manuscript 
sources of Jewish and Christian interpretation; and to his critical 
task he brought a clear and acute mind and a genuine historical 
sense. The result was a classic of scholarship, in which the firm 
organization of a multitude of details and the systematic criticism 
of a whole library of erudition affords a keen intellectual satisfac- 
tion even to a modern reader who is not a specialist in the field. 
It is an imposing achievement, the product of a capacious and 
masterful mind. 

Simon does not appear to have been guided in his labors by any 
philosophical or theological " first principles"; he was always first a 
scientist, seeking carefully for the facts. And yet, rigidly scientific 
as he was, his work had a distinct controversial significance, of 
which he himself thoroughly approved. A brief indication of the 
contents of the Critical History will suflRce to show its tendency.'*^ 

The First Book is a history of the Hebrew text from the time 
of Moses; we learn that Moses could not have written all the books 
attributed to him, that we sometimes have in the Old Testament 
only abridgments of longer works now lost, that the manuscripts 
are all imperfect and there is no wholly reliable tradition for their 
interpretation, that readings are often doubtful, and the whole 
matter full of difl&culties and obscurities. The Second Book points 
out the faultiness of all translations, from the Septuagint down to 
those made by Protestants. The Third Book is a project for a 
new translation; we have *'at present no exact Translation of the 
Holy Scripture: If we consider the difficulties which have already 
been observ'd, it seems impossible for us to succeed. We shall 
nevertheless, to the best of our power, chalk out the way which 
ought to be observ'd in the making of a Translation of the Bible, 
which may come nigher to a true one than any thing that has yet 
been made upon this Subject." ^^ 

What made his book so dangerous to the Protestants was the 
immense and impressive learning with which Simon demonstrated 

*' Simon's similar work on the New Testament came later and does not con- 
cern us. The most important studies of Simon are A. Bernus, Richard Simon ft 
son Histoire critique du Vieux Testameyit (Lausanne, 1869), and Henri Margival, 
Essai sur Richard Simon et la Critique bihlique au XVII' Si?cle (Paris, 1900). 

" English translation (1682), Book III, pp. 1-2. 

loo The Milieu of John Dry den 

his thesis of the unreHabiHty of the Biblical text. The idea was 
not new. Not to mention anything so heterodox and suspect as 
Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-politicus (1670), the Catholics them- 
selves, as we have seen, had been very busy already in the six- 
teenth century pointing out the necessity of an oral tradition to 
supplement the obscurity of the Bible. All through the seven- 
teenth century English Catholic propaganda is full of the same 
thing. William Richworth, or Rushworth, devoted the second of 
his Dialogues to a discussion of the errors in the Scripture text and 
the general uncertainty of its interpretation.^^ Thomas White, 
who, we remember, hated that *' dangerous Cockatrice, Incertitude,'' 
whether hatched by his own party or by Glanvill, had no fault to 
find with Rushworth's criticism of the Biblical text.^° John Ser- 
geaunt, also, though not ordinarily approving of the argument 
from philosophical skepticism, stressed the great hazard in trust- 
ing matters of salvation to the care of copiers and printers and 
translators and grammarians.^^ It was primarily against White 
and Sergeaunt that Tillotson wrote his Rule of Faith; ^^ they of- 
fended him by such remarks as Sergeaunt's query whether the 
sacred writings were anything but "ink variously figured in a book, 
unsensed characters, waxen-natured words, not yet sensed, nor 
having any certain interpreter, but fit to be play'd upon diversly 
by quirks of wit.? that is, apt to blunder and confound, but to clear 
little or nothing." ^^ 

The obscurity and difficulty of the Scripture was therefore by 
Simon's time a definite and long-established issue in the contro- 
versy between Catholics and Protestants. Even the exception 
illustrates the rule. Simon's most important predecessor in textual 
criticism was the French Protestant scholar, Ludovicus Cappellus, 
whose Critica Sacra was first published in 1650, after his death, 
and then under Catholic auspices by his son, who had in the mean- 

■^^ The Dialogues of William Richworth or The iudgmend of common sense in 
the choise of Religion (Paris, 1640). 

^° Rushworth's Dialogues . . . Corrected and enlargd by Thomas White, Gent 
(Paris, 1654). 

" Sure-Footing (1665). 

" Published 1666. 

" Tillotson's Sermons (London, 1742), IV, 558, 

Roman CatkoUc Apologetics in Lngland loi 

time gone over to that Church. Simon himself tells us the story 
in the Preface to his Critical History. The Protestants of Geneva, 
Sedan, and Leyden, he says, 

. . . opposM the publishing of this Book for ten years together, 
being perswaded it destroy'd the principle of their Religion, and 
oblig'd them to have recourse to the Tradition of the Catholicks. 
Father Petau, a Jesuit, Father Morin of the Oratory and Father 
Mersennus, a Minimme, got the Kings Licence for the printing of 
it. This so alarm'd the Court of Rome that it had almost con- 
demn'd it, it being a thing without precedent that heretical Books 
wherein matters of Divinity are treated of, should be printed in 
France with the King's Licence. But Father Morin, who had 
helped forward the printing of it, and perhaps had not foreseen 
all the consequences, writ to Cardinal Francis Barberini, that they 
at Rome did Capellus a kindness in condemning his Criticism which 
had created him the hatred of those of his Sect, and that at the 
same time they did the Catholicks injury, who made use of this 
Book to shew that the Protestants have no certain principle of 
their Religion, having rejected the Tradition of the Church; Capel- 
lus however never intended to draw this consequence from his 

But this was the consequence which Father Simon drew from the 
work of Cappellus, and which he also thought made his own book 
acceptable to intelligent and far-seeing Catholics. 

When Simon was ready to publish his own work, he found that 
there were Catholics nearer than Rome who were afraid of "higher 
criticism'' as a controversial weapon. In spite of long-standing 
enmity in certain circles in Paris, he had brought his work to com- 
pletion and an edition of thirteen hundred copies was printed early 
in 1678. While Simon was waiting for Pere la Chaise and the due 
de Montausier to secure for him the privilege of dedicating it to 
Louis XIV, who was away on a military campaign, the printer 
utilized the consequent delay in binding and publication and ad- 
vertised the book by printed sheets giving the contents of the 
chapters. Their audacity caused scandal, and through the influ- 
ence chiefly of Bossuet and the members of Port-Royal the whole 
edition remaining in the hands of the bookseller was destroyed. 

The 1678 edition of the Histoire critique is therefore one of the 

^^ Ed. cited. Preface. 

I02 The Milieu of John Dry den 

rarest of books. Such copies as now exist were probably sent out 
secretly in loose sheets to a few learned friends, while Simon was 
anxiously awaiting developments. Two copies we know went 
under such circumstances to England, to Bishop Compton and 
Lord Clarendon, with whom Simon had become acquainted during 
their earlier visits to Paris. ^^ These copies were dispatched by 
Henri Justel, librarian to Louis XIV, a man of learning who, though 
a Protestant, was a close friend of learned men of both churches. 
His letters to Bishop Compton written from Paris on the 12th of 
March and the 13th of April, 1678, breathe the excitement of the 
rescue of the copies from their impending fate in Paris as well as 
Justel's concern for the reception of Simon's labors among men of 
learning in England. ^^ He is anxious that the tendencies of the book 
should not frighten competent men away from an admiration of 
the scholarship, to which he is deeply devoted. He endeavors to 
smooth the path for the author, to prepare the Bishop for the first 
disconcerting shock: "C'est un homme d'esprit hardi." Above 
all, he desires that the book should be examined by De Veil, who 
could render a really competent judgment on it.^^ 

The reception in England was not quite what Justel had hoped 

" Simon's own account in a letter dated February, 1679, i" Lettres choisies de 
M. Simon (Amsterdam, 1730), IV, 85. 

" Bodleian Mss. Rawl. C984. Fol. 16 and 27, See Appendix B. Justel came 
to England in the autumn of 1681 and was appointed keeper of the manuscripts 
in tlie Royal Library; on the accession of William and Mary he was appointed 
royal librarian. His biography in the Dictionary of National Biography must be 
supplemented by the calendars of state and treasury papers for that period. The 
article on Justel in the Bulletin de la Societe de I'histoire du Protestantisme frangais 
(1930), by Ph. Dally, is entirely unsatisfactory on Justel's life in England, since it 
left the important sources of information untouched. Justel's interest in Simon's 
work continued unabated until his death in 1693. Two of his letters on the subject 
are in the British Museum, Jdd. Mss. 22, 910, fol. 426 and 428. 

" Charles Marie De Veil's competence can be deduced from his record. He 
was a Jew from Metz who had been converted by Bossuet to Catholicism, but who 
later came to England and embraced Protestantism. In 1678 he held a living at 
Fulham and appears to have been peculiarly under Bishop Compton's protection. 
His brother also came to England and became a royal librarian. See Eugene and 
£mile Haag, La France Protestante, IX, 455-456. Concerning Charles Marie we 
are further told that he at last turned Anabaptist, whereupon Bayle remarked 
(Nouv. de la Rep. des Lettres, Dec, 1684, article 9): "Dieu veuille qu'il ne fasse 
pas comme le soleil tout le tour du zodiaque." Quoted by Bernus, Richard Simon, 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 103 

for, though De Veil certainly lost no time over his task. For al- 
though Justel had sent the copies from Paris as late as the 13 th of 
April, on the 14th of May De Veil had already examined the work 
and completed a pamphlet letter to Robert Boyle, which he im- 
mediately printed in London. ^^ He did not choose to devote his 
critique to questions of pure erudition; instead he marked clearly 
the large religious issue involved, as to the adequacy of the Scrip- 
tures as the basis of authority in the Church. His pamphlet was 
nothing more than a warning that Father Simon's book would 
undermine Protestant principles. 

In the autumn of the same year Friedrich Spanheim, the 
younger, was able to borrow one of the two copies in London and 
make a more extended study of it. On the loth of December he 
completed a long review, which was published the following year 
at Amsterdam. ^^ Spanheim eulogized the masterful learning of 
the book and discussed with thoroughness some of the erudite 
questions raised. But he also recognized, as did De Veil, that 
Simon's principles were frankly intended to ruin Protestantism; 
and, he adds,^" they at the same time ruin the very foundations of 
the Greek and Roman Church of antiquity, and of the first councils, 
as well as of the Jewish religion — sweeping consequences by no 
means intended by Father Simon. ®^ 

*' Letire de Mr. De Veil, Docteur en Theologie, i^ Ministre du Saint Evangile, 
A Monsieur Boisle, De la Societe Royale des Sciences a Londres. Pour prouver 
centre VAutheur d'un Livre nouveau. Intitule, Critique du Vieux Testament, que La 
seule Ecriturs est la Regie de la Foy. A Londres, Imprime par M. Clark, 1678. The 
imprimatur is dated May 16, 1678, 

" Lettre a un amy Ou Von rend compte d'un livre, qui a pour titre, Histoire 
Critique du Vieux Testament, Publie a Paris en 1678. A Amsterdam, Chez Daniel 
Elsevir. 1679. 214 pages. Dated at end, Ce JO Decemhre 1678. 

" Ibid., p. 20. 

'^ As one might expect, there was gossip current that Simon was intentionally 
undermining the whole Christian religion; Dryden (Religio Laid, 252-253) refers 
to it: 

"Some, who have his secret meaning guessed, 
Have found our author not too much a priest." 

This insinuation is, however, without foundation. The true explanation is simply 
that Simon did not regard such sweeping conclusions as necessary consequences of 
his work. His sincere loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church is evident enough in 
his letters. See Henri Freville, "Richard Simon et les Protestants d'apres sa 
correspond ance," Revue d' histoire moderne, VI (193 1), 30-55. 

I04 The Milieu of John Dry den 

The only visible result of Justel's vigorous efforts on behalf of 
the Histoire critique was, therefore, the appearance of two Protes- 
tant replies, both emanating from England, before the book itself 
was available in print. However, in 1680 Elzevir printed an 
edition in Amsterdam, not from a printed copy, which he was 
unable to procure, but from a manuscript copy made for the 
Duchesse de Mazarin from one of the printed volumes sent to 
England. The edition of 1680, as Simon complained, was very 
faulty; but in 1685 a new edition was issued in Amsterdam, based 
on the Paris edition, of which somehow a copy had been procured; 
and this edition, which included also the criticisms of De Veil and 
Spanheim and Simon's replies, is standard.^^ 

Such was the previous history of the work which appeared in an 
English translation early in 1682. On the 19th of March the 
worthy John Evelyn wrote an agitated appeal to Dr. Fell, Bishop 
of Oxford : 

It cannot but be evident to your Reverend Lordship, to how 
great danger and fatal consequences the 'Histoire Critique,* not 
long since published in French by Pere Simon, and now lately 
translated (though but ill translated) into English, exposes not 
only the Protestant and the whole Reformed Churches abroad, 
but (what ought to be dearer to us) the Church of England at home, 
which with them acknowledges the Holy Scriptures alone to be the 
canon and rule of faith; but which this bold man not only labours 
to unsettle, but destroy. From the operation I find it already 
begins to have amongst divers v/hom I converse with, especially 
the young men, and some not so young neither, I even tremble to 
consider what fatal mischief this piece is like to create, whilst they 
do not look upon the book as coming from some daring wit, or 
young Lord Rochester revived, but as the work of a learned author, 
who has the reputation also of a sober and judicious person. And 
it must be acknowledged that it is a masterpiece in its kind; that 
the man is well studied in the oriental tongues, and has carried 
on his project with a spirit and address not ordinary amongst 
critics; though, after all is done, whether he be really a Papist, 
Socinian, or merely a Theist, or something of all three, is not easy 
to discover; but this is evident — as for the Holy Scriptures, one 
may make what one will of them, for him. He tells the world he 

" See Preface to edition of 1685, and Lettres choisies de M. Simon, I, 37-47. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 105 

can establish no doctrine or principles upon them; and then are 
not we of the Reformed Religion in a blessed condition! For the 
love of God, let our Universities, my Lord, no longer remain thus 
silent; it is the cause of God, and of our Church! Let it not be 
said, your Chairs take no notice of a more pernicious plot than any 
that yet has alarmed us. Whilst everybody lets it alone, men 
think there's nothing to be said against it; and it hugely prevails 
already, and you will be sensible of its progress when it is too late 
to take off the reproach. I most humbly therefore implore your 
Reverend Lordship to consider of it seriously; that the pens and 
the Chairs may openly and on all occasions assert and defend the 
common cause, and that Oxford may have the honour of appearing 
the first in the field. For from whom, my Lord, should we expect 
relief, if not from you the Fathers of the Church, and the Schools 
of the Prophets? It is worthy the public concern to ward the 
deadly blows which sap the roots, and should by no means be 
abandoned to hazard, or the feeble attempts of any single cham- 
pion, who, if worsted, would but add to the triumph of our ene- 
mies, Papists and Atheists. ^^ 

Evelyn went on to lament that against such men as Simon and 
Spinoza nothing of importance had been published in England. 
Old books against the atheists were of no avail among men ''of 
this curious and nicer age," and unless the heads of the hydra were 
constantly beaten down, the evil cause, he feared, was certain to 

Oxford did not respond to the call. The English scholars and 
theologians did not meet Simon in controversy. There was very 
likely much preaching against him, but in print there appeared 
only a brief pamphlet on the authorship of the Books of Moses> 
written in the spring and published in the autumn of 1682.^** And 

" Diary and Correspondence (London, 1859), III, 264-267. 

^ An Excellent Discourse Proving the Divine Original, and Authority of the Five 
Books of Moses. Written Originally in French by Monsieur Du Bois de la Cour, and 
Approved by six Doctors of the Sorbon. To which is added a Second Part, or an 
Examination of a considerable part of Pere Simon s Critical History of the Old Testa- 
ment, wherein all his Objections, with the Weightiest of Spinoza's against Moses's 
being the Author of the first Five Books of the Bible, are Answered, and some difficult 
places of Holy Scripture are Explained. By W. L. (London, 16S2). 

The preface, by "R, B.," dated April 7, 1682, speaks of "the two following 
Treatises, one written and the other translated by Mr. W. L. my greatly valued 
Friend, well known by me to be a man of Learning and Judgment and exemplary 
faithfulness to God and Conscience." 

io6 The Milieu of John Dry den 

in the following year De Veil's letter to Boyle appeared in an 
English translation.^^ 

Meanwhile the English version of the Critical History enjoyed 
a peculiar success; it received the public endorsement of the circle 
of Dryden. As Evelyn noted, it was not a good translation; it has 
many marks of haste and carelessness which become apparent upon 
comparison with the original text. Of the translator nothing fur- 
ther is known with certainty than that his name was Henry Dick- 
inson, and that he was a friend of Richard Duke.^® But his book 
had been in print only a short time when the stock seems to have 
been transferred from the original publisher, Walter Davis in Amen 
Corner, to the shop of Dryden's publisher, Jacob Tonson. The 
printed sheets, including the Walter Davis title-page, were bound 
up with a new Tonson title-page, a translation by Dickinson of 
Simon's reply to Spanheim, and three commendatory poems by 
Richard Duke, Nahum Tate, and "N. L.," possibly Nathaniel 
Lee.^^ These facts can be explained only by the assumption that, 
after Dickinson's book had appeared in print, it came under the 
patronage of Dryden's circle. At any rate, Dryden's acquaintance 
with it was perhaps the most critical event in his intellectual life. 
It stimulated a summer of thinking and writing, and in Novem- 
ber appeared Religio Laid, verses "written for an ingenious young 
Gentleman, my Friend, upon his Translation of The Critical 

^^ A Letter to the Honourable Robert Boyle^ Esq. Defending the Divine Authority 
of the Holy Scripture, And that it alone is the Rule of Faith. In answer to Father 
Simons Critical History of the Old Testament. Written by C. M. Du Veil, D.D. 
(London, 1683). 

^ Richard Duke, Poems upon Several Occasions (London, 1717), p. 418. Inas- 
much as Duke was from Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received his B.A. 
degree in 1678, it is quite likely that the translator was the Henry Dickinson who 
was at Trinity at the same time; but as the Cambridge records yield nothing but 
the bare facts of his academic career, he remains only a name. See J. Venn and 
J. A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses. For previous attempts at identification of 
the translator see Dryden, Works, X, 32, n. 

" The poems are signed "R. D.," "N. T.," and "N. L." Duke's poem was 
acknowledged in the edition of his poems in 1717, ut supra; Nahum Tate reprinted 
his in Poems written on several Occasions, by N. Tate. The Second Edition enlarged 
(London, 1684), p. 157. The fact that Tate and Duke were both close to Dryden 
at this time lends strength to the supposition that the third man was Nathaniel 
Lee. For further description of the two issues of the Critical History see Appen- 
dix C. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 107 

History of the Old Testament, composed by the learned Father 
Simon:' «^ 


Although Dryden may have felt the full impact of fideistic 
thought for the first time when he read Father Simon's book, it 
does not follow that he then made the acquaintance of an entirely 
new set of ideas, unrelated to his previous thought. There is evi- 
dence that he had already been considering the philosophical, as 
well as political, bearings of the religious problems of his time. 
The discussion of Dryden's conservatism in secular and ecclesiasti- 
cal politics must be deferred to another chapter; for the present 
v/e must limit the investigation to the more philosophical aspects 
of the subject, to discover, if possible, whether Dryden had been 
turning over in his mind the problem of certainty and truth in re- 
ligion before he wrote Religio Laid, or whether, as Christie would 
have it, '*much of his learning and many of his opinions were 
probably acquired for the occasion." ^^ 

We may dismiss as libels the customary insinuations of Dry- 
den's enemies that his conduct and conversation betrayed an in- 
difference to religion. It was a charge which he particularly 
resented. In the Preface to Tyrannic Love (1670) he defends that 
play against the accusation of *'no less crimes than profaneness 
and irreligion." When the tyrant Maximin scoffs against religion, 
Dryden pointed out, he speaks in character and his sentiments are 
not in justice to be imputed to the author. 

This, reader, is what I owed to my just defence, and the due 
reverence of that religion which I profess, to which all men, who 
desire to be esteemed good, or honest, are obliged. I have neither 
leisure nor occasion to write more largely on this subject, because I 
am already justified by the sentence of the best and most discern- 
ing prince in the world, by the suffrage of all unbiassed judges, and 
above all, by the witness of my own conscience, which abhors the 

'* Dryden's Preface to the poem. Religio Laid was advertised in The Obser- 
vator for November 30, 1682. 

«* "Memoir," Poetical Works of John Dryden, ed. W. D. Christie (Globe 
edition), p. liii. 

io8 The Milieu of John Dryden 

thought of such a crime; to which I ask leave to add my outward 
conversation, which shall never be justly taxed with the note of 
atheism or profaneness.^° 

A dozen years later Thomas Hunt accused him of atheism and 
impiety on the basis of a speech in The Duke of Guise. To this 
foolish charge Dryden again answered that the passage was in 
character, and also that it was written, not by him, but by Lee. 
As for Mr. Hunt, "I am not malicious enough to return him the 
names which he has called me; but of all sins, I thank God, I have 
always abhorred atheism; and I had need be a better Christian 
than Mr. Hunt has shown himself, if I forgive him so infamous a 
slander." ^^ Inasmuch as Dryden showed himself so tender on this 
point, any suspicions of overt atheism are entirely gratuitous. 

Some modern students of Dryden have advanced the theory, 
more worthy of investigation, that Dryden was a Deist during his 
life in London up to his conversion to Catholicism. Some autobio- 
graphical lines in The Hind and the Panther tell us that he had not 
been uniformly orthodox: 

My thoughtless youth was winged with vain desires. 

My manhood, long misled by wandering fires. 

Followed false lights; and, when their glimpse was gone, 

My pride struck out new sparkles of her own. 

Such was I, such by nature still I am, 

Be Thine the glory, and be mine the shame. ^^ 

Scott ventured an explanation of these lines: the "vain desires'* 
of Dryden's '' thoughtless youth " refer merely to " that inattention 
to religious duties which the amusements of youth too frequently 
occasion." The "false lights" of his manhood, Scott thought, were 
his "puritanical tenets," which he would have derived from his 
family and have held up to his thirtieth year. The "sparkles" 
struck out by his pride were those ideas which he held from the 
Restoration to his conversion to Catholicism. Scott concluded 

70 Works, III, 377-378. 71 /^jj^ VII, 171. 

'2 The Hind and the Panther, I, 11. 72-77. In interpreting these lines, so far as 
they can definitely be interpreted, it should of course be borne in mind that they 
are written from the point of view of a Roman Catholic; it is therefore net impos- 
sible that Dryden was thinking of his profession of faith and his own individual 
speculations as a member of the Anglican Church. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 109 

that Dryden was "sceptical concerning revealed religion," and 
that "his conviction really hovered between natural religion and 
the faith of Rome*'; '^ in other words, Dryden was really a Deist 
from 1660 to 1686. And this is also the opinion more recently ex- 
pressed by Verrall in his lectures on Dryden.^^ 

The most obvious and most serioUs objection to this theory is 
that Dryden in Religio Laid, both in the preface and in the poem, 
rejects Deism and contrasts its presumption with his own skeptical 
habits of thought. He declares that he is unable to believe that 
the reason of man, "without the benefit of Divine Illumination," 
can attain even to the few essential tenets of Deism; he ventures 
to suppose that these tenets are really "the faint remnants or dy- 
ing flames of revealed Religion in the Posterity of Noah"; and he 
thinks "that our Modern Philosophers, nay and some of our Phi- 
losophising Divines have too much exalted the faculties of our 
Souls, when they have maintained that by their force, mankind 
has been able to find out that there is one Supream Agent or In- 
tellectual Being which we call God." Dryden's disagreement with 
the central principle of religious rationalism is, therefore, so com- 
plete and conclusive in Religio Laid that it separates him not only 
from Deism, but from the rationalistic tendencies of such Anglican 
leaders as Chillingworth, Stillingfleet, Tillotson, and the Cambridge 

They who wou'd prove Religion by Reason, do but weaken the 
cause which they endeavour to support: 'tis to take away the 
Pillars from our Faith, and to prop it only with a twig: 'tis to 
design a Tower like that oi Babel, which, if it were possible (as it is 
not) to reach heaven, would come to nothing by the confusion of 
the Workmen. For every man is Building a several way; im- 
potently conceipted of his own Model, and his own Materials: 
Reason is always striving, and always at a loss; and of necessity 
it must so come to pass, while 'tis exercis'd about that which is not 
its proper object. Let us be content at last, to know God by his 
own methods; at least, so much of him, as he is pleas'd to reveal 
to us in the sacred Scriptures; to apprehend them to be the word 

'^ Works, I, 256-262. 

'^ A. W. Verrall, Lectures on Dryden (Cambridge, 1914), p. 150. Saintsbury, 
however, declared he could find no evidence of the supposed Deism of Dryden. 
See Works, XVIII, 321. 

no The Milieu of John Dry den 

of God, is all our Reason has to do; for beyond it is the work of 
Faith, which is the Seal of Heaven impress'd upon our humane 

Obviously, the philosophical groundwork of Religio Laid was 
Pyrrhonism, not rationalism; Dryden was not a Deist in 1682. 

What he was before 1682 is not very easy to say; the evidence 
is ambiguous and must be interpreted. We have, first of all, some 
argumentative passages on questions of religious controversy in 
a few of Dryden's rhymed plays. But where such a debate is a 
part of a drama, its composition must perforce be guided also by 
considerationsof dramatic character and situation; the convictions 
of the author may have nothing to do with it. All we can be sure 
of is that such an episode has sprung from Dryden's intellectual 
curiosity, from his delight in testing certain arguments by throw- 
ing them into the arena with their opposites. Such a debate is 
more than a mere rhetorical exercise; for the best rhetoric is al- 
ways more than rhetoric, it is the vigorous play of the intelligence. 
One of the most engaging characteristics of Dryden's mind is his 
readiness to understand the other side of the question, even after 
he has settled his own convictions. Being of a skeptical and diffi- 
dent temper, he naturally hesitated about settling his convictions. 
In the argumentative passages of the plays his ideas are still, in 
greater or less degree, in solution; in his poems on politics and 
religion they appear in precipitated and crystallized form. 

A scene of this kind, below Dryden's best in both thought and 
versification, but pertinent to the question of his supposed Deism, 
appears in The Indian Emperor (acted 1665). The dialogue takes 
place, astonishingly enough, between a fanatical Spanish priest 
and his two Indian victims, the king Montezuma and the Indian 
High Priest, who by his orders have been stretched on the rack. 
The Spaniard applies the torture with the double purpose of ex- 
tracting a confession regarding hidden gold and forcing the savages 
to acknowledge the Christian religion. The scene obviously is an 
early illustration of Dryden's lifelong hatred of priestly greed and 
fanaticism; by the dramatic action he directs our sympathies to 
the side of the two suffering representatives of "the noble savage": 
^' PoemSf ed. John Sargeaunt, p. 95. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England in 

Christian Priest to Montezuma. Fond man, by heathen ignorance misled, 
Thy soul destroying when thy body's dead: 
Change yet thy faith, and buy eternal rest. 

Indian High Priest to Montezuma. Die in your own, for our belief is best. 

Montezuma. In seeking happiness you both agree; 

But in the search, the paths so different be, 

That all religions with each other fight. 

While only one can lead us in the right. 

But till that one hath some more certain mark, 

Poor human-kind must wander in the dark; 

And suffer pain eternally below, 

For that, which here we cannot come to know. 

Chr. Pr. That, which we worship, and which you believe, 
From nature's common hand we both receive: 
All, under various names, adore and love 
One Power immense, which ever rules above. 
Vice to abhor, and virtue to pursue. 
Is both believed and taught by us and you: 
But here our worship takes another way — 

Mont. Where both agree, 'tis there most safe to stay: 
For what's more vain than public light to shun. 
And set up tapers, while we see the sun? 

Chr. Pr. Though nature teaches whom we should adore, 
By heavenly beams we still discover more. 

Mont. Or this must be enough, or to mankind 
One equal way to bliss is not designed; 
For though some more may know, and some know less. 
Yet all must know enough for happiness. 

Chr. Pr. If in this middle way you still pretend 

To stay, your journey never will have end. 

Mont. Howe'er, 'tis better in the midst to stay. 
Than wander farther in uncertain way. 

Chr. Pr. But we by martyrdom our faith avow. 

Mont. You do no more than I for ours do now. 
To prove religion true — 
If either wit or sufferings would suffice, 
All faiths afford the constant and the wise: 
And yet even they, by education swayed, 
In age defend what infancy obeyed. 

Chr. Pr. Since age by erring childhood is misled. 
Refer yourself to our unerring head. 

Mont. Man, and not err! what reason can you give? 

Chr. Pr. Renounce that carnal reason, and believe. 

112 The Milieu of John Dry den 

Mont. The light of nature should I thus betray, 

'Twere to wink hard, that I might see the day. 

Chr. Pr. Condemn not yet the way you do not know; 
I'll make your reason judge what way to go. 

Mont. 'Tis much too late for me new ways to take. 
Who have but one short step of life to make. 

Pizarro. Increase their pains, the cords are yet too slack. 

Chr. Pr. I must by force convert him on the rack.^^ 

The argument of Montezuma certainly comes near to being 
Deism, and must have been famihar enough in certain London 
circles of the Restoration; but it would be unwarranted to affirm 
on the strength of this debate that Dryden, like Montezuma, re- 
jected Christian revelation. 

It might well be assumed that we are on surer ground in the 
discussions of religion in Tyrannic Love (1670).. Dryden here repre- 
sents Saint Catherine disputing among the pagans, and it may 
reasonably be supposed that he put in her mouth the most cogent 
arguments he was capable of, as her triumph was part of the dra- 
matic action. The saint converts Apollonius, a heathen philoso- 
pher, by demonstrating the rational and ethical superiority of 

-S. Cath. Nor pride, nor frenzy, but a settled mind. 
Enlightened from above, my way does mark. 

Maximin. Though heaven be clear, the way to it is dark. 

S. Cath. But where our reason with our faith does go, 
We're both above enlightened, and below. 
But reason with your fond religion fights. 
For many gods are many infinites: 
This to the first philosophers was known, 
Who, under various names, adored but one; 
Though your vain poets, after, did mistake. 
Who every attribute a god did make; 

^* The Indian Emperory V, ii {Works, II, 397-399). This passage attracted 
the attention of "R. F.," who in 1668 attacked Dryden in A Letter from a Gentle- 
man to the Honourable Ed. Howard Esq.; Occasioned by a Civilizd Epistle oj Mr. 
Dryden s, before his Second Edition of his Indian Emperour. "We may justly pre- 
sume," he says (p. 7), "that when his Indian Emperour was first acted, he intended 
to instruct and reform all Churches in Polemical Divinity, by his admirable Dis- 
pute between a Christian and a Heathen Priest; which also shows how great a 
loss the Church had of him, when he was diverted from entering into Orders." 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 113 

And so obscene their ceremonies be, 

As good men loathe, and Cato blushed to see. 

Max. War is my province! — Priest, why stand you mute? 
You gain by heaven, and, therefore, should dispute. 

Apollonius. In all religions, as in ours, there are 
Some solid truths, and some things popular. 
The popular in pleasing fables lie; 
The truths, in precepts of morality. 
And these to human life are of that use, 
That no religion can such rules produce. 

S. Cath. Then let the whole dispute concluded be 
Betwixt these rules, and Christianity. 

Apol. And what more noble can your doctrine preach, 
Than virtue, which philosophy does teach? 
To keep the passions in severest awe. 
To live with reason, nature's greatest law; 
To follow virtue, as its own reward; 
And good and ill, as things without regard. 

S. Cath. Yet few could follow those strict rules they gave 
For human life will human frailties have; 
And love of virtue is but barren praise. 
Airy as fame; nor strong enough to raise 
The actions of the soul above the sense. 
Virtue grows cold without a recompence. 
We virtuous acts as duty do regard; 
Yet are permitted to expect reward. 

Apol. By how much more your faith reward assures. 
So much more frank our virtue is than yours. 

S. Cath. Blind men! you seek e'en those rewards you blame: 
But ours are solid; yours an empty name. 
Either to open praise your acts you guide, 
Or else reward yourselves with secret pride. 

A-pol. Yet still our moral virtues you obey; 
Ours are the precepts, though applied your way. 

iS. Cath. 'Tis true, your virtues are the same we teach; 
But in our practice they much higher reach. 
You but forbid to take another's due, 
But we forbid even to desire it too: 
Revenge of injuries you virtue call; 
But we forgiveness of our wrongs extol; 
Immodest deeds you hinder to be wrought. 
But we proscribe the least immodest thought. 
So much your virtues are in ours refined. 
That yours but reach the actions, ours the mind. 

Max. Answer, in short, to what you heard her speak. [To .Apol. 3 

114 The Milieu of John Dry den 

Apol. Where truth prevails, all arguments are weak. 
To that convincing power I must give place; 
And with that truth that faith I will embrace." 

The saint is obviously so rationalistic in her presentation of the 
Christian religion that she hardly goes beyond the principles of 
natural religion; Apollonius announces his conversion without 
hearing a word about Christ or the sacraments. Nevertheless we 
must beware of regarding Saint Catherine's arguments as an exact 
reflection of Dryden's thought; we must remember the exigencies^ 
not to say the proprieties, of the theater, which certainly forbade 
a disquisition on every part of the Catechism; the scene could not 
be indefinitely prolonged. Furthermore, Apollonius was a philoso- 
pher, to be appealed to first in that character; and possibly Dryden 
also meant us to understand that he was not unacquainted with the 
tenets of the Christians when he entered into this critical debate.^® 

In spite of these reservations, however, readers will probably 
agree that rationalism made a strong appeal to Dryden's mind. 
That it was not an evanescent appeal is clear from his discussion 
of the religion of Plutarch, a passage written in 1683, when his 
animadversions upon Deism in Religio Laid were still warm in his 

I have ever thought, that the wise men in all ages have not 
much differed in their opinions of religion; I mean, as it is grounded 
on human reason: for reason, as far as it is right, must be the same 
in all men; and truth being but one, they must consequently think 
in the same train. Thus it is not to be doubted but the religion of 
Socrates, Plato, and Plutarch was not difl^erent in the main; who 
doubtless believed the identity of one Supreme Intellectual Being, 
which we call God.'^ 

At first glance, this statement of what he had "ever thought" 
seems closer to Tyrannic Love than to Religio Laid; but it is really 

" Tyrannic Lovg, II, iii (fForks, III, 403-405). Compare other rather ration- 
alistic arguments and remarks, pp. 391, 435, and 441. 

'* Notice might also be made of Raphael's instruction to Adam in Thf State 
of Innocence y II, i {Works, V, 134). But as Raphael was speaking before the Fall, 
it was impossible for him to present to Adam the Christianity of the New Testa- 
ment. There is no inconsistency between this passage and Dryden's position in 
Religio Laid. 

" Works, XVII, 33. Cf. Saintsbury's note, XVIII, 321. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 115 

inconsistent with neither. The application of the passage is defi- 
nitely limited: "I mean, as it is grounded on human reason"; 
Dryden is emphasizing in the context the probability that Plutarch 
was too enlightened to have been a polytheist. 

That he was no Christian [he continues] is manifest. . . . But 
we need not wonder that a philosopher was not easy to embrace 
the divine mysteries of our faith. A modern God, as our Saviour 
was to him, was of hard digestion to a man, who probably despised 
the vanities and fabulous relations of all the old. Besides, a cruci- 
fied Saviour of mankind; a doctrine attested by illiterate disciples; 
the author of it a Jew, whose nation at that time was despicable, 
and his doctrine but an innovation among that despised people, 
to which the learned of his own country gave no credit, and which 
the magistrates of his nation punished with an ignominious death; 
the scene of his miracles acted in an obscure corner of the world; 
his being from eternity, yet born in time; his resurrection and ascen- 
sion; these, and many more particulars, might easily choke the faith 
of a philosopher, who believed no more than what he could deduce 
from the principles of nature; and that too with a doubtful aca- 
demical assent, or rather an inclination to assent to probability, 
which he judged was wanting in this new religion. These circum- 
stances considered, though they plead not an absolute invincible 
ignorance in his behalf, yet they amount at least to a degree of 
it; for either he thought them not worth weighing, or rejected 
them when weighed; and in both cases he must of necessity be ig- 
norant, because he could not know without revelation, and the 
revelation was not to him.^^ 

Those principles on which Dryden thought the wise men of all ages 
agree, turn out therefore to be but a very small part of essential 
Christianity and indeed reach to but half of the few tenets of 

The rationalistic tendency in Dryden evidently did not develop 
very freely or very far; it must inevitably have been inhibited by 
that Pyrrhonistic turn of his mind, indications of which are 
scattered throughout his writings. Again and again he recognized 
that he was a skeptic living in an age predominantly skeptical. 
His Essay of Dramatic Poesy he described in 1668 as "sceptical, 
according to that way of reasoning which was used by Socrates, 
Plato, and all the Academics of old, which Tully and the best of 

80 Ihid., pp. 34-35. 

ii6 The Milieu of John Dry den 

the Ancients followed, and which is imitated by the modest in- 
quisitions of the Royal Society." ^^ Three years later he asked why 
there should "be any ipse dixit in our poetry, any more than there 
is in our philosophy." ^^ j^i the Defence of the Epilogue (1672) he 
noted that "we live in an age so sceptical, that as it determines 
little, so it takes nothing from antiquity on trust." ^^ Discuss- 
ing the two Catos in his dedication of Don Sebastian (1690), he 
expressed that dislike for the presumption and dogmatism of 
the Stoics which characterized the skeptics from antiquity down 
through the ages: 

The eldest of them, I will suppose, for his honour, to have been 
of the academic sect, neither dogmatist nor stoic; if he were not, I 
am sure he ought, in common justice, to yield the precedency to 
his younger brother. For stiffness of opinion is the effect of pride, 
and not of philosophy; it is a miserable presumption of that knowl- 
edge which human nature is too narrow to contain; and the rugged- 
ness of a stoic is only a silly affectation of being a god, — to wind 
himself up by pulleys to an insensibility of suffering, and, at the 
same time, to give the lie to his own experience, by saying he suffers 
not what he knows he feels. ^^ 

And in the Life of Lucian, written about 1696, he said that "all 
knowing ages" are "naturally sceptic, and not at all bigotted; 
which, if I am not much deceived, is the proper character of our 
own." ^^ 

Dryden never showed himself out of sympathy with this aspect 
of his age. His skeptical temperament and diffidence of opinion, 
we have seen in an earlier chapter, alienated him from the philoso- 
phy of Hobbes; it must also have halted whatever inclination he 
felt toward Deism or religious rationalism. The criticism of Deism 
which he propounded in Religio Laid in 1682 was not a new opinion 
"acquired for the occasion." In the Defence of an Essay of Dra- 
matic Poesy (1668) he noted that "our divines, when they have 
proved a Deity, because there is order, and have inferred that this 
Deity ought to be worshipped, differ afterwards in the manner of 
the worship"; ^^ in other words, he had observed that religious 

81 Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, I, 124. ^2 /^,-^,^ p, 138. 

w Ihid., p. 163. w Worksy VII, 302-303. 

» Ibid., XVIII, 70. w Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, I, 123. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 117 

rationalism is of very limited application. In 1672 he loaned this 
thought to Almanzor, in The Conquest of Granada: 

By reason, man a godhead may discern, 

But how he would be worshipped cannot learn.^ 

In his old age he penned a retrospective statement of his thought 
which has great biographical importance: "We have indeed the 
highest probabilities for our revealed religion; arguments which 
will preponderate with a reasonable man, upon a long and careful 
disquisition; but I have always been of opinion, that we can 
demonstrate nothing, because the subject-matter is not capable of 
demonstration. It is the particular grace of God, that any man 
believes the mysteries of our faith; which I think a conclusive 
argument against the doctrine of persecution in any Church." ^ 
Such was Dryden's characteristic temper of mind from the begin- 
ning to the end of his literary career; and his confession lends 
authority to the belief that Religio Laid was the expression of a 
mode of thought with which he had long been familiar, and that 
many of the ideas of the poem came to him as the result of reading 
and study extending over many years. 

Though Dryden confessed it to his shame that he never read 
anything but for pleasure,^^ his tastes and pleasures were varied 
and extensive and certainly included philosophical and theological 
subjects. His work abounds with allusions that have not been 
identified, and no one as yet has been able to track him through 
all his studies. But enough is known to warrant the statement 
that Dryden was not unacquainted with the problems of religious 
and philosophical certitude. We know that he cultivated Mon- 
taigne, the "wise Montaigne" and "honest Montaigne" men- 
tioned in the prefaces.^*^ In the dedication of the Aeneis Dryden 
states he is "of Montaigne's principles, that an honest man ought 
to be contented with that form of government, and with those 

«' Part II, IV, iii {Works, IV, 190). 

88 Works, XVIII, 66. sa /^^^.^ XVII, 56. 

•*> Ihid., VII, 314, and V, 328. In the latter passage Dryden quotes in French 
from the essay De la ■presumption. 

ii8 The Milieu of John Dry den 

fundamental constitutions of it, which he received from his an. 
cestors, and under which himself was born." ^^ And in his Preface 
to the Fables he confesses that he had "learned from the practice 
of honest Montaigne" that "the nature of a preface is rambling, 
never wholly out of the way, nor in it." ^^ Montaigne's Essays were 
therefore very much to Dryden's taste, among his favorite books; 
they were at the very height of their popularity in England, the 
delight of all sophisticated readers. Dryden was exactly of the 
temperament to catch their drift; in the dedication to Aureng-Zebe 
(1676) he alludes to Montaigne's depreciation of the human reason: 

As I am a man, I must be changeable: and sometimes the 
gravest of us all are so, even upon ridiculous accidents. Our minds 
are perpetually wrought on by the temperament of our bodies; 
which makes me suspect, they are nearer allied, than either our 
philosophers or school-divines will allow them to be. I have ob- 
served, says Montaigne, that when the body is out of order, its 
companion is seldom at his ease. An ill dream, or a cloudy day, 
has power to change this wretched creature, who is so proud of a 
reasonable soul, and make him think what he thought not yes- 

Dryden had found these reflections in the Apology for Raymond 

This many- headed, divers-armed, and furiously-raging monster, 
is man; wretched weake and miserable man: whom if you consider 
well, what is he, but a crawling, and ever-moving Ants-neast.? . . . 
A gust of contrarie winds, the croking of a flight of Ravens, the 
false pase of a Horse, the casual flight of an Eagle, a dreame, a 
sodaine voyce, a false signe, a mornings mist, an evening fogge, 
are enough to overthrow, sufficient to overwhelme and able to 
pull him to the ground.^^ 

" Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, II, 171. The inclination of the skeptical tempera- 
ment toward political conservatism, so apparent in both Montaigne and Dryden, 
will be discussed in the succeeding chapter. 

^2 Ibid., p. 255. In The Censure of the Rota. On Mr. Dridens Conquest of 
Granada (Oxford, 1673), pp. 18-19, Richard Leigh gave the following satirical 
recipe for composing plays in Dryden's style: ". . . the descriptions may be 
borrowed from Statius, and Montaigns Essays, the Reason and Politicall Orna- 
ments from Mr. Hobs, and the Astrologicall (and if need be, the Language too) 
from Ibrahim, or the Illustrious Bassa." " Works, V, 199. 

"* Essays, trans. Florio, Tudor Translations (London, 1893), II, 172. Dry- 
den's further quotation from the Essays, Book II, Chap. XVII, in the Preface to 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 119 

This is from the heart of the Apology; it is part of that skeptical 
dialectic, that humiliation of the reason, which Montaigne took 
over from Greek skepticism and passed on to his disciples of later 
generations. Dryden's contemptuous reference to the "wretched 
creature, who is so proud of a reasonable soul," shows that he had 
been assimilating this dialectic; at least as early as 1676 he had 
made the acquaintance of the fideistic thought of Montaigne. 

It goes without saying that Dryden knew Sir Thomas Browne's 
Religio Medici; the great vogue of the book and the title of Dry- 
den's poem would be presumptive evidence, even had Dryden not 
paraphrased Religio Medici from memory in a note to his Persius}^ 
It may probably be assumed that the man who described himself 
and his age, as well as the method of the Royal Society, as "scep- 
tical," had not overlooked the interest of Glanvill's Scepsis scien- 
tifica. Pascal's Pensees, though published twelve years before 
Religio Laid, probably remained unknown to Dryden as to most 
other English readers until the first translation of them in 1688; ^^ 
they reached him too late in his life to influence the direction of his 
thought. But that he had read Hooker and other Anglican "phi- 
losophizing divines" may be inferred from his Preface to Religio 
Laid; and as we have seen in the preceding chapter, Dryden's 
interest in the philosophical problems raised by Hobbes is apparent 
throughout his work.^^ Perhaps no evidence is more suggestive of 
the range of his reading than Congreve's statement that "I have 
heard him frequently own with Pleasure, that if he had any Talent 

All for Love (1678), only two years after the publication of Aureng-Zebey may 
indicate that he had been reading Montaigne with some diligence and digesting 
those ideas which he set forth in Religio Laid. 

^^ Works, XIII, 229-730, and Saintsbury's note, XVIII, 315. 

^^ Louis Charlanne, L' Influence frangaise en Angleterre au XVIh' siecle (Paris 
1906), p. 341, attributes to Dryden the remark that "the Pensees of the incompa- 
rable M. Pascal, and perhaps of M. Bruyere, are two of the most entertaining books 
which the modern French can boast of." The opinion comes from Dryden's 
circle, but is not from Dryden. It is found in the Preface to the Pastorals con- 
tributed by William Walsh to Dryden's translation of Vergil, 1697. 

^^ Dryden's careful study of the literature of controversy in the reign of 
James II can be appreciated only after one has compared representative pam- 
phlets with The Hind and the Panther. But as Dryden had special reasons for 
reading such literature at that time, nothing can be safely argued from it regarding 
his habits of study before 1682. 

I20 The Milieu of John Dry den 

for English Prose, it was owing to his having often read the writings 
of the great Archbishop Tillotson." ^^ Just how literally we are to 
understand this extraordinary explanation of Dryden's prose style 
is a problem that does not come within this study; but it is 
authoritative and illuminating information regarding his intellec- 
tual interests. For if Dryden was early in his literary career an 
assiduous reader of Tillotson — and we cannot infer anything 
less — he could hardly have avoided that divine's most important 
early work, The Rule of Faith (1666), written in reply to Sergeaunt's 
Sure-Footing; and thus he would have been introduced to that 
controversy between Anglicans and Catholics over the principle 
of authority in religion which was described in the first part of 
this chapter. 

Such information as is available regarding Dryden's reading up 
to his composition of Religio Laid tends, therefore, to discredit 
Christie's thrust: "As was often the case with Dryden, much of 
his learning and many of his convictions were probably acquired 
for the occasion." Dryden had meditated on the strength and 
weakness of Deism as well as of Hobbism, had recognized that his 
own skepticism and that of his age were out of harmony with both, 
had read in the rational divinity of the Anglican Church, had very 
probably some knowledge of Catholic controversy through Tillot- 
son, and had met with fideistic thought in such classic expositions 
of it as Religio Medici and The Apology for Raymond Sehond; what 
else he read on this particular subject we do not know, but a man 
of Dryden's intellectual zest is not likely to drop quickly a subject 
which has aroused his interest. Congreve says, in the Dedication 
already quoted, that "as his Reading had been extensive, so was 
he very happy in a Memory tenacious of every thing that he had 
read." No one who reads Dryden extensively can fail to receive 
the impression that his intellectual contacts with his age were many 
and fruitful. But like all vigorous and independent minds, he 
gradually selected out of the mass of his knowledge a set of con- 
victions in harmony with his own nature. 

'^ Congreve's Dedication to The Dramatic Works of John Dryden (1717). 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 121 


This assimilation was complete by 1682 and thenceforth no 
fundamental intellectual change is observable in his nature. Re- 
ligio Laid and The Hind and the Panther are so closely allied in 
their philosophy that the earlier poem might be regarded as a sort 
of prelude or introduction to the later; both are basically skeptical 
and fideistic. And when the modern scholar has placed both poems 
in their context in the history of seventeenth-century thought, it 
becomes clear — much clearer than it could have been to Dryden 
himself — that he was already in 1682 far along on the road to the 
Roman communion; he had already accepted the essential prin- 
ciples on which the Roman Catholics of the time based their apolo- 
getics. If the question of his sincerity is to be raised, it would 
therefore seem more discerning to raise it in connection with his 
Anglicanism in the earlier poem, rather than with his conversion a 
few years later.^^ But even an ambiguous position may, of course, 
be held with both moral and intellectual sincerity, with no real ex- 
pectation of those later developments which by the illusion of his- 
tory appear to us to have been inevitable. That Dryden regarded 
Religio Laid as conformable to Anglicanism is clear from his Pref- 
ace; and this opinion was shared by his friends, Roscommon and 
Richard Duke, good Anglicans both, who contributed commen- 
datory poems for the occasion; though Roscommon does seem to 
imply that some of the ** Reverend Levis" of the English Church 
were far from pleased with Dryden's theology. 

Since both poems are woven on the same warp of Pyrrhonism 
and fideism, they may conveniently be treated together in our 
analysis. In their similarities, more than in their divergencies, we 
shall find what is characteristic of Dryden's mind. 

*' Scott thought that Dryden, when he wrote Religio Laid, "was sceptical 
concerning revealed religion." Scott's whole discussion of this stage of Dryden's 
life is vitiated by his failure to distinguish between philosophical skepticism and 
religious skepticism or "free-thinking." Knowing nothing of the fideism of the 
seventeenth century, Scott confused Dryden's avowed skepticism with irreligion. 
With characteristic insight, however, even where his information was inadequate, 
he corrected himself with a phrase: Dryden, he said, "was converted to the 
Catholic faith from a state of infidelity, or rather of Pyrrhonism." See Dryden, 
Works, I, 258-263. 

122 The Milieu of John Dry den 

The fideistic argument may take two distinguishable, though 
related, forms — the one theological or philosophical, and the other 
ecclesiastical. The first emphasizes the importance in the inner 
life of the individual of that faith which unsympathetic critics have 
described as "the continuous suicide of reason"; and therefore in 
the interest of this faith either submits the reason to a destructive 
philosophical analysis, as in Montaigne and Pascal, or proceeds 
by assuming the darkening and enfeebling of man's intellect by 
the fall, as in the Augustinian tradition; according to this way of 
thinking, rationalism is one of the greatest menaces to religion. 
This argument therefore proceeds by a direct attack upon the 
authority of the reason. The other, the ecclesiastical, argument, 
arrives at the same conclusion by an indirect course; it demon- 
strates by an appeal to experience and history that we must of 
necessity submit to some authoritative tradition and organization 
in the Church; it attempts to show that there is in all purely 
human institutions an inherent tendency to disintegration and 
anarchy; as a practical fact, therefore, the unity and perpetuity 
of the Church can be preserved only by the sacrifice of the inde- 
pendence of the individual reason in the final decision of contro- 
versies. The great classic of this argument, which was one of the 
commonplaces of seventeenth-century apologetics, is Bossuet's 
Histoire des variations des eglises protestantes (1688). Both forms 
of argument aim at the subjection of the reason to faith. They are 
so closely interrelated that, more often than not, they are found 
together, as they are in Dryden. 

The Pyrrhonistic defense of faith supports the whole logical 
structure, and inspires the loftiest poetical flights, of both of Dry- 
den's poems on religion. It prompts the slow and solemn rhythms 
of the opening lines of Religio Laid, which so pleased Landor: ^°° 

Dim as the borrow'd beams of Moon and Stars 

To lonely y weary ^ wandring Travellers 
Is Reason to the Soul: And as on high 
Those rowling Fires discover but the Sky 

100 "Nothing," said Landor, "was ever written in hymn equal to the beginning 
of the Religio Laid, — the first eleven lines." — H. Crabb Robinson's Diary, III, 
194. Quoted by G. Birkbeck Hill in his edition of Johnson's Lives of the Poets 
(Oxford, 1905), I, 442, n. 6. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 123 

Not light us here; So ReasotCs glimmering Ray 

Was lent, not to assure our doubtfull way, 

But guide us upward to a better Day. 

And as those nightly Tapers disappear 

When Day's bright Lord ascends our Hemisphere; 

So pale grows Reason at Religions sight; 

So dyes, and so dissolves in Supernatural Light.^"^ 

In The Hind and the Panther the argument is extended, in defense 
of transubstantiation, to a questioning of sense as well as of reason: 

Can I believe eternal God could lye 

Disguis'd in mortal mold and infancy? 

That the great Maker of the world could dye? 

And after that, trust my imperfect sense 

Which calls in question his omnipotence? 

Can I my reason to my faith compell. 

And shall my sight, and touch, and taste rebell? ^^ 

The identity of thought in the two poems is so close that the 

second, almost unavoidably, repeats some of the first. In Religio 

Laid (11. 39-40) Dryden asked: 

How can the less the Greater comprehend ? 
Or finite Reason reach Infinity? 

And in The Hind and the Panther (I, 11. 104-105): 

Let reason then at Her own quarry fly, 
But how can finite grasp Infinity? 

The fact that Dryden's polemics in the second poem are di- 
rected at the church to which he adhered when he wrote the first, 
should not be permitted to obscure the consistency of the purely 
philosophical content of both. In Religio Laid he was defending 
Christian revelation against Deism. The greatest pagan philoso- 
phers, he said, have n6t been able to find the true source of human 
happiness; the Deist is presumptuous in asserting that there is a 
universal religion of prayer and praise discoverable by the reason 

of man: 

Those Gyant Wits, in happyer Ages born, 

(When Arms, and Arts did Greece and Rome adorn,) 

Knew no such Systeme: no such Piles cou'd raise 

Of Natural fVorship, built on Pray'r and Praise, 

To One soU god: 

Nor did Remorse, to Expiate Sin, prescribe: 

But slew their fellow Creatures for a Bribe.*"' 

*<** Poems, ed. John Sargeaunt, p. 99. ^'^ Ibid., p. 119. ^'^ Ibid., p. 100. 

124 The Milieu of John Dry den 

But in The Hind and the Panther the polemic is Roman Catholic, 
and directed against the rationahstic principle inherent in Protes- 
tantism. It is true that the long discourse on reason is, in appear- 
ance, aimed at Socinianism; but Dryden, like the other Catholic 
controversialists of his time, believed that Protestantism inevitably 
tended toward this heresy: 

With greater guile 
False Reynard fed on consecrated spoil; 
The graceless beast by Athanasius first 
Was chased from Nice; then by Socinus nurs'd. 
His impious race their blasphemy renew'd, 
And natures King through nature's opticks view'd, 
Revers'd they view'd him lessen'd to their eye, 
Nor in an Infant could a God descry: 
New swarming Sects to this obliquely tend, 
Hence they began, and here they all will end.^°* 

For if the reason is yielded the right to examine and regulate faith, 
even the cherished doctrines and sacraments of the Protestants 
will soon go; and therefore, said Dryden and the Catholic dis- 
putants, the Protestant denunciation of the irrationalities of tran- 
substantiation plays directly into the hands of the Socinians. The 
doctrine of transubstantiation became, indeed, one of the centers 
of the controversy over reason in religion; Dryden's discussion of 
the question is conducted throughout with reference to this doc- 
trine. ^°^ And he is thinking, not so much of the Socinians as of the 
Anglicans, with their semi-rationalistic interpretation of the Com- 
munion, when he writes: 

To take up half on trust, and half to try, 

Name it not faith, but bungling biggottry. 

Both knave and fool the Merchant we may call 

To pay great summs and to compound the small. 

For who wou'd break with heav'n, and wou'd not break for all? 

Rest then, my soul, from endless anguish freed; 

Nor sciences thy guide, nor sense thy creed. 

^°* Poems, ed. cited, p. Ii8. It was a favorite argument with the Catholics that 
Socinianism was the logical outcome of Protestantism. See, for instance, Abraham 
Woodhead's pamphlet with the ironical title: The Protestants Plea for a Socinian: 
Justifying His Doctrine from being opposite to Scripture or Church- Authority ; And 
Him from being Guilty of Heresie, or Schism (London, 1686). 

"<* The Hind and the Panther, Part I, 11. 63-149. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 125 

Faith is the best ensurer of thy bUss; 

The Bank above must fail before the venture miss.^°* 

The second poem is imbued with the same anti-rationaHsm as the 
earher; though Dryden had changed his church allegiance, he had 
not changed his fundamental philosophical convictions. His criti- 
cism of Protestant principles in 1687 is only a more extended appli- 
cation of his animadversions against Deism in 1682. 

As we examine Dryden's use of the other fideistic argument, 
the argument for some final and unassailable authority, we arrive 
at the same result; there is no change of mind observable on this 
question in the interval between the two poems. Religio Laid, as 
well as its Preface, is imbued with bitter feeling against the in- 
dividualism of the English sectaries, who, since the Bible had been 
translated into English, ''have used it so as if their business was 
not to be saved, but to be damned by its contents." 

The Book thus put in every vulgar hand, 

Which each presum'd he best cou'd understand. 

The Common Rule was made the common Prey; 

And at the mercy of the Rabble lay. 

The tender Page with horney Fists was gaul'd; 

And he was gifted most that loudest baul'd; 

The Spirit gave the Doctoral Degree, 

And every member of a Company 

Was of Au Trade and of the Bible free. . . . 

While Crouds unlearn'd, with rude Devotion warm. 

About the Sacred Viands buz and swarm, 

The Fly-blown Text creates a crawling Brood; 

And turns to Maggots what was meant for Food}°^ 

Such chaos, Dryden thought in 1682, can be averted by respecting 
the authority of the old Church Fathers, and by realizing that the 
truths necessary to salvation are so plain in Scripture that dispute 
about them is unnecessary. The solution was the usual one of the 
Anglican divines and was not invented by Dryden. Its weak- 

^^ Poems, ed. cited, p. 119. Though the breaking bank, as a religious meta- 
phor, is not to modern taste, it carried an idea home in Dryden's day. John Owen 
said with reference to the Roman Catholic Church: "For notwithstanding all 
their pleas of a sure and safe bank for the consciences of men, there are great pre- 
sumptions that they will break at last, and leave them who have entrusted them 
unto eternal beggary." — The Church of Rome no Safe Guide (London, 1679), p. 17. 

^"^ Poems, ed. cited, pp. 97, 104-105. 

126 The Milieu of John Dry den 

ness, theoretically at least, was that it provided no real ultimate 
authority for the settlement of disputes; it merely substituted a 
judicious and learned individualism for the extravagant individual- 
ism of the Private Spirit, And Dryden shows himself even in 
Religio Laid not entirely satisfied with this Anglican compromise; 
his arguments, as Scott has observed, ** carried him too far." The 
famous lines,^°^ 

Such an Omniscient Church we wish indeed; 

'Twere worth Both Testaments, and cast in the Creed, 

reveal how strong a hold the notion of authority already had on 
his mind, despite his vigorous rejection of the doctrine of infalli- 
bility. And in the conclusion of the poem he yields an obedience 
to the Church of England as by law established, more strict than 
it theoretically could claim, and more blind than that Church, in 
its fear of being identified with Popery, would want to claim: 

And after hearing what our Church can say. 
If still our Reason runs another way, 
That private Reason 'tis more Just to curb, 
Than by Disputes the publick Peace disturb. 
For points obscure are of small use to learn: 
But Common quiet is Mankind's concern}^^ 

If it is objected that this is only base compromise for the sake of an 
external quiet, one can only answer that Dryden probably recog- 
nized this weakness of his position, and therefore abandoned it for 
what he considered the stronger position of the Catholic Church. 
Authority he was looking for; and in The Hind and the Panther he 
speaks with scorn of a state church without any inner principle of 
authority on the basis of which it can demand obedience: 

How answ'ring to its end a church is made, 
Whose pow'r is but to counsel and perswade? 

108 Works, I, 261. 

1°' Poems, ed. cited, p. 105. This argument from "common quiet" might 
perhaps be described as pure Hobbism. But, as the Anglican divines often pointed 
out, Hobbes's conception of absolute obedience to a state church was not so very 
different from the submission to an infallible church demanded by the Roman 
Catholics. In either case private reason would be curbed in the interest of public 
peace, though Hobbes would not have insisted that the submission be accom- 
panied by such thorough searching of the heart. 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 127 

O solid rock, on which secure she stands! 
Eternal house, not built with mortal hands! 
Oh sure defence against th'infernal gate, 
A patent during pleasure of the state! ^^° 

He subjects Anglicanism to scrutiny, pointing out what great 
difficulties any seceded body must encounter in attempting to sup- 
press further secession from itself. The Panther is therefore in an 
embarrassing situation: 

Fierce to her foes, yet fears her force to try, 
Because she wants innate auctority; 
For how can she constrain them to obey 
Who has her self cast off the lawful sway? 
Rebellion equals all, and those who toil 
In common theft, will share the common spoil. 
Let her produce the title and the right 
Against her old superiours first to fight; 
If she reform by Text, ev'n that's as plain 
For her own Rebels to reform again. 
As long as words a difF'rent sense will bear. 
And each may be his own Interpreter, 
Our ai'ry faith will no foundation find: 
The word's a weathercock for ev'ry wind: 
The Bear, the Fox, the Wolfe by turns prevail. 
The most in pow'r supplies the present gale."^ 

In the second part of the poem, when the Hind argues that the 
Anglican Church does not possess any satisfactory principle of 
authority, the Panther is represented as being unable to 

. . . enlarge 
With weak defence against so strong a charge. 

It was an argument to which Dryden had quite evidently found 
no sufficient answer, and which had played an important part in his 
submission to the Catholic Church. 

Such fundamental identity of thought in two poems which 
superficially appear to be of opposite tendencies is obviously not 
an insignificant accident. Both poems are thoroughly character- 
istic of Dryden, both spring from the same temper of mind, the 
same attitude toward philosophical and ecclesiastical problems. 
And the study of Dryden's thought is important and profitable for 
this reason, if for no other, that it minimizes, and possibly solves 

"0 Ibid., p. 124. "^ Ibid., p. 123. 

128 The Milieu of John Dry den 

entirely, the biographical problem of his conversion, which has 
proved such a stumblingblock to some of his critics. The con- 
tinuity and consistency of his philosophical convictions, and their 
close relationship on the one hand to Dryden's native tempera- 
ment, and on the other to notable tendencies in his immediate in- 
tellectual milieu, all these considerations make it appear quite 
improbable that his ideas were merely borrowed for the needs of 
the occasion. His shifts of allegiance were all changes in the same 
direction, toward greater conservatism. He feared the crowd, the 
*' dregs of democracy," and believed that the weaknesses of human 
nature must be offset by some compelling and supreme authority 
in church and state. When he finally confessed to himself that the 
Anglican Church had renounced the necessary principle of author- 
ity, he went over to the church which seemed to him still to possess 
it. There is a type of conversion to Roman Catholicism which 
appears to the external observer to be mere timidity; the desire 
above all for inner peace and external quiet seems to rugged in- 
dividualists to be only sluggishness of mind and spirit. Dryden 
did not advance upon Catholic doctrines, like a victorious army 
upon enemy fortifications, and subdue them by sheer intellectual 
conquest; Dryden was subdued by them. His assent to Catholi- 
cism was more in the nature of a retreat to an impregnable fortifi- 
cation when the more forward position had been proved untenable. 
The Catholic controversialists of the seventeenth century well un- 
derstood the psychology of this process when they so persistently 
disseminated their fideistic propaganda, choosing, as the Anglican 
divines continually complained, to make people skeptics in order 
that they might the more easily reduce them to the authority of 
Rome. Dryden, being naturally inclined to skepticism, was all 
the more susceptible to this argument, because this tendency of 
his temperament had been sustained, clarified, and developed by 
his contacts with Montaigne and Browne, with the Royal Society, 
with the tradition of Catholic apologetics in England, and with 
Simon's Critical History. And the same temperament reveals it- 
self, in an equally characteristic manner, in his poems on politics, 
which are indeed an essential part of its complete expression. As- 
suming the preconceptions of the seventeenth century, the problem 

Roman Catholic Apologetics in England 129 

of religious knowledge was never far removed from the problem of 
authority in church and state. Dryden's views on religion are full 
of political implications, and lose some of their cogency when iso- 
lated from those political and ethical questions with which they 
were, in his own mind, intimately associated. 


i Skepticism and conservatism ii Hobbes and Fllmer iii Dryden's 
view of Whiggism iv Dryden's formulation of Toryism 

THE organic relation between Dryden's Toryism and his other 
ideas has been repeatedly alluded to in the course of this 
study. For not only were the issues of politics and religion in- 
volved with one another, but Dryden was predisposed, by his diffi- 
dence of temperament and his philosophical skepticism, toward 
the conservative wing in political theory. Pyrrhonism, though 
it often lent itself to disruptive and libertine tendencies, has by 
and large since the time of its founder been the doctrine of tradi- 
tionalists and conformists rather than of reformers. It stimulated 
fear of change and distrust of novelty far more than dissatisfaction 
with things as they are. Such a connection between skepticism 
and conservative politics was almost a commonplace of thought 
in the seventeenth century, when every man who pretended to 
reading was familiar with his Montaigne. For this arch-skeptic 
was skeptical of nothing more than of reform: 

A wise man of our times, saith, that where our Almanakes say 
warme, should a man say cold, and in lieu of drie, moyst; And 
ever set downe the contrarie of what they foretell; were he to lay 
a wager of one or others successe, he would not care what side he 
tooke, except in such things as admit no uncertaintie; as to promise 
extreame heat at Christmas, and exceeding cold at Midsomer. 
The like I think of these politike discourses. What part soever 
you are put unto, you have as good a game as your fellow: Pro- 
vided you affront not the apparant and plaine principles. And 
therefore (according to my humor) in publike affaires, there is no 
course so bad (so age and constancie be joyned unto it) that is not 
better then change and alteration. Our manners are exceedingly 
corrupted, and with a marvellous inclination bend toward worse 


Toryism 131 

and worse; Of our lawes and customes many are barbarous, and 
divers monstrous; notwithstanding, by reason of the difficultie to 
reduce us to a better estate, and of the danger of this subversion, if 
I could fixe a pegge into our wheele, and stay it where it now is, I 
would willingly doe it. . . . Instabilitie is the worst I find in our 
state, and that our lawes, no more then our garments, can take 
no settled forme. It is an easie matter to accuse a state of imper- 
fection, since all mortall things are full of it. As easie is it to beget 
in a people a contempt of his ancient observances: No man ever 
undertooke it, but came to an end: But to establish a better state 
in place of that which is condemned and raced out, divers who 
have attempted it, have shronk under the burthen.^ 

Although Dryden was not so timorous as Montaigne, he was will- 
ing to put his conservative convictions under the protection of 
Montaigne's authority. In his dedication of the Aeneis he declared 
that he was '* of Montaigne's principles, that an honest man ought 
to be contented with that form of government, and with those 
fundamental constitutions of it, which he received from his an- 
cestors, and under which himself was born." ^ 

As has often been pointed out by those who have written on 
these subjects, skepticism and conservatism have in common a dis- 
illusioned, even cynical, view of human nature. The typical revo- 
lutionist has a sublime confidence that when human nature is 
emancipated from traditions, both intellectual and political, and 
is at liberty to assert its own reasonableness and competence, the 
terrible evils of society will quickly be done away with. The en- 
lightened conservative, such as Montaigne, admits the existence 
of the evils: ". . .Our manners are exceedingly corrupted, and 
with a marveilous inclination bend toward worse and worse; Of 
our lawes and customes many are barbarous, and divers monstrous." 
But at the same time he is convinced that human nature cannot 
meet the high expectations of the revolutionist. Montaigne joins 
in a eulogy of Pyrrhonism both the political argument for submis- 
sion to the state and the fideistic argument for humiliating the 
reason to faith: for Pyrrhonism, he says, 

^ Essay Sy trans. Florio, Tudor Translations (London, 1893), II, 390-391. 
This passage is from the essay Of Presumption, with which Dryden was certainly 
familiar, as he quoted from it in his preface to Aureng-Zehe in 1676. See Works ^ 
V, 328. 2 Essays, ed. W. P. Ker, II, 171. 

132 The Milieu of John Dry den 

. . . representeth man bare and naked, acknowledging his naturall 
weaknesse, apt to receive from above some strange power, dis- 
furnished of all humane knowledge, and so much the more fitte 
to harbour divine understanding, disannulling his judgment, that 
so he may give more place unto faith: Neither misbeleeving nor 
establishing any doctrine or opinion repugnant unto common lawes 
and observances, humble, obedient disciplinable and studious; a 
sworne enemy to Heresie, and by consequence exempting himselfe 
from all vaine and irreligious opinions, invented and brought up 
by false Sects. It is a white sheet prepared to take from the finger 
of God what form soever it shall please him to print therein.^ 

Such intellectual humility is a necessary condition to our genuine 
obedience to the state as well as to our inner tranquillity: 

It is better for us to suffer the order of the world to manage 
us without further inquisition. A mind warranted from prejudice, 
hath a marvellous preferment to tranquillity. Men that censure 
and controule their judges, doe never duly submit themselves unto 
them. How much more docile and tractable are simple and un- 
curious mindes found both towards the lawes of religion and Poli- 
tike decrees, than these over-vigilant and nice wits, teachers of 
divine and humane causes.? * 

That Dryden, true to the traditions of skepticism, shared this 
distrust of human nature, is obvious to the most cursory reader 
of his political poems. Nor was this conviction any late discovery, 
after the Popish Plot; for there is no evidence that Dryden ever 
held democratic principles. It is a somewhat extraordinary fact 
that the poet whose family was on the Parliamentary side during 
the Civil War and whose uncle held high office under the Protec- 
torate, should have avoided eulogizing Commonwealth principles 
in his Heroic Stanzas to the Memory of Oliver Cromwell} That poem 
has praise only for the strong leader, the heaven-sent great man 
who saved his country from chaos. Scott long ago pointed out the 
"caution and moderation'' of Dryden's treatment of the political 
situation, in honorable contrast to Sprat's poem on the same oc- 
casion.^ Again, Dryden's praise of the returned Charles, in Astrcea 

' Essays, ed. cit., II, 211-212. * Ihid., p. 211. 

^ On the contrary, as Saintsbury has noted, the twenty-seventh stanza of 
that poem "does not look as if Dryden's anti-democratic ideas were due to the 
Restoration merely." — Works, IX, 22, n. • Ibid., p. 7. 

Toryism 133 

Redux and the Panegyric on his Coronation, similarly avoids ex- 
travagance in political opinion. That Dryden, in Johnson's phrase, 
had " changed with the nation " is evident enough. But the change 
offers no more difficulty than the account of any modern patriotic 
English historian who, after doing justice to the greatness of Crom- 
well, proceeds to describe the jubilant welcome to Charles in 1660, 
without implying that the latter event is a cause for national hu- 
miliation. Dryden's mind moved with the march of events, just 
as Milton's did in the opposite direction from 1641 to 1650; but 
we need not impugn the sincerity of either for that reason. On 
Dryden's behalf it should be noted that, as he nowhere in his early 
poem expressed any approval of a republican political establish- 
ment, so neither did he in his congratulatory poems to the king 
make any disparaging reference to Cromwell. It is indeed just 
possible that the sudden changes in political events did not modify 
his fundamental convictions. It is a curious fact that the phrase, 
"drawn to the dregs of a democracy," which Dryden later twice 
incorporated into his own work,^ had lingered in his mind since 
Lacrymce Musarum, the volume in memory of Lord Hastings to 
which he had contributed in 1650, in which one of his fellow con- 
tributors had thus expressed himself: 

It is decreed we must be drained, I see, 
Down to the dregs of a democracy.* 

To appreciate how carefully Dryden phrased the Heroic Stanzas 
one has only to read them through with this expression in mind. 
But if Dryden, early and late, was naturally inclined to doubt 
the stability of a democratic government, if he took a low estimate 
of the political capacity of mankind, he was also among those in 
whom the turbulence of contemporary English politics inspired 
profound misgivings. In no century since the Wars of the Roses 
had England been the scene of such violent and such long-continued 
tumult. We can now easily appreciate that the great constitu- 
tional change which was in progress was a blessing to England and 
to mankind; but this happy issue was not then so easily perceived, 
especially with the swarm of extreme and revolutionary doctrines 

' See Absalom and Achitofhd, izj, and The Hind and the Panther, i, 211. 
' Dryden, Poetical Works, ed. W. D. Christie, p. 229, n. 

134 The Milieu of John Dry den 

which were everywhere agitated and expounded. It was possible, 
then, to denounce the poHtical instability of the Anglo-Saxon race. 
Dryden could describe the English as 

... a Headstrong, Moody, Murm'ring race 
As ever tri'd th'extent and stretch of grace; 
God's pamper'd People, whom, debauch'd with ease. 
No King could govern nor no God could please.' 

The frequency of rebellion was humiliating to contemplate: 

For, govern'd by the Moon, the giddy Jews 
Tread the same Track when she the Prime renews: 
And once in twenty years, their Scribes record. 
By natural Instinct they change their Lord.^° 

From such a state of mind springs absolutist political theory, 
which in this period received its most extreme and uncompromis- 
ing statement and enjoyed its widest popularity. Such theorists 
as Hobbes and Filmer could never have had any practical political 
influence in England during a period of calm and security; they 
belong peculiarly to the turbulence of the seventeenth century. 

Dryden's Tory allegiance is, therefore, not difficult to account 
for, notwithstanding his upbringing in a family of Parliamentary 
sympathies. In view of the traditions of thought of his century, 
he was quite naturally, one might say inevitably, of the conserva- 
tive party. His convictions were intensified when, after the Popish 
Plot, another period of demagoguery and rebellion threatened, as 
he believed, the stability and the honor of the nation. Moreover, 
he had fortified himself by extensive study of history, his favorite 
reading, whence he drew parallels to illuminate the situation in his 
own day. The fact that he was ever the student raises his political 
pronouncements above the level of the mere pamphleteer. And 
if we can define his thought and follow him in some of his studies, 
we shall come perceptibly nearer to an understanding of his mind 
and character. 


Dryden must have been forcibly tempted by absolutist political 
theory. His friend Hobbes was the most notorious exponent of it, 
and the political as well as philosophical tenets of Hobbes flourished 

• Ahsalom and Achitophd, 11. 45-48. " Ibid., 11. 216-219. 

Toryism 1 3 5 

among fashionable and courtly circles after the Restoration. ** Mr. 
John Dreyden, Poet Laureat," records Aubrey about 1679-80, "is 
his great admirer, and oftentimes makes use of his doctrine in 
his plays," adding that this information came "from Mr. Dreyden 
himself." ^^ In an earlier chapter I have illustrated Dryden's very 
frequent use in his plays of Hobbes's doctrine of necessitarianism; 
it is less easy to find characteristic Hobbesian political theory in 
his dramas. Perhaps there is an echo of it in the speech of Boab- 
delin, king of Granada: 

'Tis true from force the noblest title springs; 

I therefore hold from that, which first made kings.^^ 

But it can hardly be said that the dramatist used the argument 
sympathetically; for Don Arcos, the ambassador of the king of 
Spain, immediately retorts: 

Since then by force you prove your title true, 
Ours must be just, because we claim from you. 

The audience was left to form its own conclusions after this typical 
dramatic passage at arms. 

In the second part of The Conquest of Granada, however, we 
find a discussion of less equivocal import: 

Boahddin. See what the many-headed beast [the people] demands. — [Exit 
Cursed is that king, whose honour's in their hands. 
In senates, either they too slowly grant. 
Or saucily refuse to aid my want; 
And, when their thrift has ruined me in war, 
They call their insolence my want of care. 

Abenamar. Cursed be their leaders, who that rage foment, 
And veil, with public good, their discontent: 
They keep the people's purses in their hands. 
And hector kings to grant their wild demands; 
But to each lure, a court throws out, descend. 
And prey on those they promised to defend. 

Zulema. Those kings, who to their wild demands consent. 
Teach others the same way to discontent. 
Freedom in subjects is not, nor can be; 
But still, to please them, we must call them free. 

" Brief Lives, ed. A. Clark (Oxford, 1898), I, 372. 

" The Conquest of Granada, Part I, Act I, sc. i {Works, IV, 47). 

136 The Milieu of John Dry den 

Propriety, which they their idol make, 
Or, law, or law's interpreters, can shake. 

Abenamar. The name of commonwealth is popular; 

But there the people their own tyrants are. 

Boabdelin. But kings who rule with limited command. 
Have players' sceptres put into their hand. 
Power has no balance, one side still weighs down, 
And either hoists the commonwealth or crown; 
And those, who think to set the scale more right. 
By various turnings but disturb the weight. 

Abenamar. While people tug for freedom, kings for power, 
Both sink beneath some foreign conqueror: 
Then subjects find too late they were unjust. 
And want that power of kings, they durst not trust. ^^ 

So far as this is Hobbesian, Dryden may be said to have reflected 
the political ideas of that philosopher in his plays. Similar passages 
might be culled from The Indian Emperor and some of his other 
heroic plays. ^^ 

But it may be fairly questioned whether this strained political 
declamation in Dryden's heroic drama is anything more than 
plastered decoration. In was found appropriate for that theatrical 
genre not only by Dryden, but by Orrery, and earlier than either 
by Davenant, of whom it has been said that *'his monarchic senti- 
ment and scorn of the crowd are typical of the heroic play, which 
was, in its origin, the expression of an aristocratic ideal.'' ^^ These 
stupendous spectacles required large and exaggerated eflPects; the 
ideas and sentiments conformed in tone to the general sensational 
nature of the characters and plot. In an earlier chapter we have 
hesitated to impute to Dryden an adherence to the philosophical 
conception of determinism which is so frequently debated in his 
plays. It is likewise neither necessary nor advisable to take his 
characters literally as his mouthpieces on political theory. 

For when Dryden began to express his ideas in his own person, 
he carefully avoided all such forms of absolutist politics as were 

" The Conquest of Granada, Part II, Act I, sc. ii {Works, IV, 130). 

^* See, for instance, the following, with references to the edition of Scott and 

The Indian Emperor, Act I, sc. ii (II, 339); Act II, sc. ii (II, 346); Act IV, 
sc. ii (II, 377); Tyrannic Love, Act II, sc. iii (III, 402). 

^^ B. J. Pendlebury, Dryden s Heroic Plays (London, 1923), p. 78. 

Toryism 137 

then current. There is no trace of Hobbes in Absalom and Achit- 
ophel and The Medal; and what is of greater import, no trace of 

Sir Robert Filmer is known to fame chiefly through Locke's 
ridicule in his Discourses on Government (1691) of the Patriarcha, 
Filmer's "thinnest and most confused" ^^ work, and the only one 
which he himself did not give to the press. Filmer died in 1653, 
leaving an incomplete manuscript, which was first published in 
1680. The Patriarcha does not fairly represent Filmer as a political 
thinker; but what is more important for our immediate purpose, 
it is not representative of Tory thought in 1680. Filmer maintained 
that royal authority is an inheritance, by the principle of primo- 
geniture, from the patriarchal authority first bestowed by God on 
Adam. This was Filmer's way of avoiding the theory of a contract 
between king and people, which, with its corollary principle of 
repudiation, seemed to open too wide the door to rebellion. With 
this patriarchal theory, which *'was not in the least essential" ^^ 
to the general system of Filmer, Locke succeeded in making merry; 
Locke was able to show that under this theory no reigning family 
in Europe could produce its credentials; he established beyond 
doubt that under this theory the authority of monarchical govern- 
ment would be dissipated in genealogical obscurity. The triumph 
of Locke over Filmer's posthumous book was complete. But it is 
not so clear that Locke thereby triumphed over the principles seri- 
ously held by the Tories from 1679 to 1685. From Charles down 
they were far too shrewd politicians to stake their cause, in a mo- 
ment of threatened civil war, on an unverifiable and obviously 
fictitious pedigree. It appears from a contemporary pamphlet 
that "this notion of the Divine and Patriarchal Right of absolute 
Monarchy" obtained especially "among some modern Church- 
men, who cry it up as their Diana, and consequently hath . . . 
much infected our Universities." ^^ Possibly, therefore, the more 

^* So described in the admirable essay on Filmer by J. W. Allen, Thf Social 
and Political Ideas of Some English Thinkers of the Jugustan Age, ed. F. J. C. 
Hearnshaw (London, 1928), p. 28. ^^ Allen, op. cit., p. 46. 

^8 Patriarcha non Monarcha [by James Tyrrell], (London, 1681), Preface. 
Cf. also Absalom Senior: or^ Achitophel Transpros'd. A Poem (London, 1682), 
p. 20. 

138 The Milieu of John Dry den 

"high-flying" divines were disseminating Patriarchy in the pul- 
pits and universities as their version of Toryism; but, in general, 
Tory theory was more respectable intellectually than this, and 
dealt with less fanciful topics. And Dryden, who represents the 
higher levels of Tory thought, never once leans his case on the 
Patriarchal theory. 


It is not easy for the modern reader of Dryden to do justice 
to the intellectual merits of his political poems; from our point 
of view he was on the wrong side. The Revolution establishment 
settled the constitutional conflict of the seventeenth century, and 
thereafter many of the old Tory arguments disappeared from 
English political life. We are, accordingly, too likely to forget that 
the Toryism represented by Dryden had in it some elements of 
political wisdom of more than mere historical interest, that it con- 
tributed, in fact, toward a settlement in 1688 on less revolutionary 
principles than might otherwise have been adopted. Only by an 
eflFort of the historical imagination can we realize the dreaded 
possibilities before England in 1680, the threats of catastrophe 
which, in the light of later events, appear to us as mere chimeras. 
We must realize that Dryden's poems were written while the whole 
nation was in a state of panic: the Whiggish element in a furor 
over the supposed revelations of the Popish Plot and the danger 
of a Roman Catholic monarch; the Tory element fearing another 
civil war, another social and economic upheaval, and another dis- 
astrous experiment in constitutional subversion. And the fears of 
each party determined its political measures. However, on this 
point also we find it easier to understand the Whigs; their fears 
appear to have been amply justified by the succeeding reign of 
James II, whereas the Tories seem to have been only perverse ob- 
structionists to the inevitable course of constitutional develop- 
ment. In short, the Tories of 1680 appear to us as mere obstinate 
victims of a delusion. 

But all this was less clear in 1680. If it is true that some Tory 
principles became extinct after 1688, the same may also be said 
for some very forward Whig doctrines. The Whiggism of 1680 is as 
diflPerent from the Whiggism of Sir Robert Walpole and the later 

Toryism 139 

eighteenth century as the Toryism of 1680 Is from the principles 
of Swift or Bohngbroke. The poems of Dryden deal with the situ- 
ation as it existed from 1679 to 1682; and only as we consent to 
move back to this point in history and peer into the, as yet, un- 
certain future, can we have much sympathy with the motives back 
of the Toryism which Dryden represented. 

The immediate occasion of the division of England into the 
Whig and Tory camps was of course the Exclusion Bill, intended 
to prevent the succession of the Roman Catholic Duke of York to 
the throne. But the roots of both parties reached deep into the 
past. The Exclusion Bill merely served to make the public more 
aware of political divergences that had been developing for a 
century or longer, and to combine and organize the many shades 
of radical and conservative opinion into two well-defined hostile 
groups. As this fact was plainly perceived and taken for granted 
at the time, much of the controversy consisted of each party read- 
ing to the other the lessons of history; though perhaps the Tories 
excelled somewhat in this art, lingering over the disastrous results 
of earlier rebellions, whereas the Whig argument was more likely 
to turn into a prophecy of the dire effects to come should a Papist 
king sit on the throne of England. Dryden, at any rate, made 
significant and pointed use of this appeal to history in his exam- 
ination and judgment of Whiggism. 

The close connection between Whiggism and Dissent did not 
escape anyone; Tory pamphleteers were never weary of proclaim- 
ing that the new Saints of '79 were intent on repeating the history 
of '42. Dryden went much further than this facile parallel; he 
made up his mind about the fundamental political tendency of the 
Sects — among which he included the Presbyterians of England 
and Scotland and the Huguenots of France — from their very 
origin. He read extensively in modern history, and this reading 
confirmed in him a conviction that these Sects were factious and 
rebellious by nature and in principle. 

Among the most revealing chapters of modern history, as Dry- 
den read it, was the account of the French League in the sixteenth 
century. His interest in it seems to anticipate the Restoration; 
for when he began a play on the Duke of Guise, as early as 1660, 

140 The Milieu of John Dryden 

he must already have read Davila's history, which is the main 
source of that play.^^ This work had been translated into English 
at Oxford while Charles I had his headquarters there, and the 
king *'read it there, with such eagerness, that no Diligence could 
Write it out faire, so fast as he daily called for it; wishing he had 
had it some years sooner, out of a Beliefe, that being forewarned 
thereby. He might have prevented many of the mischiefs we then 
groaned under.'* ^^ The parallel of the Holy League of France and 
the Covenanters of England, which struck the unhappy Charles 
so forcibly, was not lost on later readers; the League, despite the 
difference in religion, came to be used as a commentary on the 
political principles and practices of English Dissenters and Whigs.^^ 
"Any one who reads Davila," said Dryden, in his Epistle to the 
Whigs prefixed to The Medal (1682), "may trace your practices all 
along." The Ligueurs held that, as Catholics, they were not bound 
to submit to Henry of Navarre, Huguenot heir to the French 
throne; in justification of this attitude they asserted, against the 
sacredness of the legal succession, the sovereign rights of the people. 
There was irony in the fact that the Whigs, who professed such 
hatred for papistry in England, should have been so startlingly an- 
ticipated by the Catholic Guisards of France, and Dryden, in his 
Epistle to the Whigs, drove the parallel home: "There were the 
same pretences for reformation and loyalty, the same aspersions 
of the king, and the same grounds of a rebellion.'* When Dryden 
wrote these lines in 1682 he had probably already turned again to 
the play he first projected in 1660; within a few months he had 
completed, with the assistance of Lee, his indictment of Whiggism 
drawn in the form of a historical drama. The Duke of Guise. The 
subject had then been on his mind for more than twenty years. 
But the Ligueurs had no monopoly on the theories of popular 

" See Works, VII, 146. In 1683 Dryden still had the first edition of the Eng- 
lish translation by him {ibid., VII, 161), though the second impression had been 
issued in 1678. 

20 H. C. Davila, Thf History of the Civil Wars in France, Second Impression 
(London, 1678), Preface to the Reader. 

2^ The fact that Dryden drew this parallel in Asircea Redux, 101-102, confirms 
the natural supposition that his political purpose in taking up the story of the Duke 
of Guise was the same in 1660 as when he actually completed the play in 1682. 

Toryism 141 

rights; their contemporaries, the Huguenots, also reserved a theo- 
retical right to resist the authority of an heretical monarch. This 
doctrine was proclaimed by at least three eminent French disciples 
of Calvin: Theodore Beza, in a number of his publications, Fran- 
cois Hotman, in Franco-Gallia (1573), and Philippe de Duplessis- 
Mornay, whose Vindicice contra Tyrannos (1579) was published 
under the pseudonym of "Junius Brutus." The great Scotch 
humanist, George Buchanan, who in political thought was of the 
school of Calvin and Mornay, expounded similar ideas in his work 
De Jure Regni apud Scotos (1579). Dryden was informed about 
these developments among the Calvinists of the sixteenth century. 
In his Epistle to the Whigs, after comparing them to the Guisards, 
he turns to the political traditions of Calvinism itself: 

I know not whether you will take the historian's word, who 
says it was reported that Poltrot, a Hugonot, murdered Francis, 
duke of Guise, by the instigations of Theodore Beza, or that it was a 
Hugonot minister, otherwise called a Presbyterian (for our Church 
abhors so devilish a tenet), who first writ a treatise of the lawfulness 
of deposing and murdering kings of a different persuasion in re- 
ligion: but I am able to prove from the doctrine of Calvin and the 
principles of Buchanan, that they set the people above the magis- 
trate; which, if I mistake not, is your own fundamental, and which 
carries your loyalty no farther than your liking.^^ 

And thus, Dryden believed, the nature of the new Whiggism — 
closely allied to English Presbyterianism — could be elucidated 
by the double parallel of Huguenot and Roman Catholic political 
thought.^^ For the politics of the extinct Ligueurs was in a sense 

22 A recent student of this subject, the Reverend R. H. Murray, says that 
Beza did not condemn Poltrot's assassination of the Guise, believing that tyran- 
nicide was under some circumstances justifiable. Beza therefore carried the rights 
of the subject further than either Calvin, Hotman, or Duplessis-Mornay, who 
all stopped short of tyrannicide. See R. H, Murray, The Political Consequences of 
the Reformation (London, 1926), p. 188. 

2' Dryden's special interest in French history of the sixteenth century led 
him to read widely on the subject. In addition to Davila, he refers in his Vindica- 
tion to the memoirs of Villeroy and the journals of Henry HI [by L'Estoile], both 
of which he seems to have used as sources for some incidents also in The Duke of 
Guise. In the postscript to his translation of Maimbourg's History of the League, 
he also mentions Mezeray, and refers the reader to Sleidan for further information 
on the Miinster Anabaptists. Dryden was doing more than collect material for a 

142 The Milieu of John Dry den 

continued by the Jesuits, to whom Dryden paid his respects in the 
Preface to Religio Laid, and again in the postscript to the History 
of the League: 

But some of the Jesuits are the shame of the Roman church, as 
the sectaries are of ours. Their tenets in pohtics are the same; 
both of them hate monarchy, and love democracy; both of them 
are superlatively violent; they are inveterate haters of each other 
in religion, and yet agree in the principles of government. And if, 
after so many advices to a painter, I might advise a Dutch maker 
of emblems, he should draw a Presbyterian in arms on one side, a 
Jesuit on the other, and a crowned head betwixt them; for it is 
perfectly a battle-royal. Each of them is endeavouring the de- 
struction of his adversary; but the monarch is sure to get blows on 
both sides. ^^ 

Tory pamphleteers frequently made a point of this similarity in 
anti-monarchic thought between the Jesuits and the English Dis- 
senters. Dryden regarded it as one more proof of the essentially 
rebellious spirit of Sectarianism. 

So far we have been following Dryden's studies in Continental 
politics. But in his reading of English history, also, he observed 
how the individualism of the "Schismatics" had tended toward 
heresy in the Church and insubordination in both Church and 
State. "Since the Bible has been translated into our tongue," he 
said, in his Preface to Religio Laid, these Sectaries "have used it 
so as if their business was not to be saved, but to be damned by 
its contents. . . . How many heresies the first translation of Tyn- 
dal produced in a few years, let my Lord Herbert's History of 
Henry the Eighth inform you." He points out that the influence of 
Calvinism in England was of a disruptive nature, referring the 
reader to "the works of our venerable Hooker, or the account of 
his life [by Waltoni, or more particularly the letter written to him 
on this subject by George Cranmer." ^^ OThe spirit of Dissent being 

24 Works, XVII, 167. 

^ Henry Care charged Dryden with having stolen his whole preface from 
Cranmer's letter. See The Weekly Pacquet of Advice from Rome, V, 165-166 
(January 12, 1682-83). Evidently Care thought that Dryden expressed himself 
entirely in the spirit of Cranmer. Cranmer's letter to Hooker, written in 1598, 
was printed as appropriate to the times, in February, 1642. See Thomason Cata- 
logue y I, 84. 

Toryism 143 

in principle wayward and factious, it was impossible, Dryden be- 
lieved, to reconcile it with a settled and authoritative order in 
Church and State. This is the interpretation of the Sects which 
runs through Absalom and Achitophely The Medal, Religio Laid, 
and The Hind and the Panther, and it was one of Dryden's most 
deep-seated convictions. As Dissent was such an important con- 
tributory element in Whiggism, this conviction carried over into 
his judgment of the whole Whig party. ^^ 

For the Whigs, however conservative some of them may have 
been, inherited a good many Commonwealth tendencies. The Ex- 
clusion Bill raised all the sleeping dogs of political theory; its 
constitutional im.plications were many and far-reaching. It could 
not be passed without establishing a new precedent which would in 
effect make England an elective monarchy. Inasmuch as Charles 
resolutely refused to countenance the Bill, to continue to press it 
in Parliament v/as nothing less than threatening to seize the law- 
making power for Parliament alone, with the alternative of civil 
war if the royal party resisted. The grooming of the illegitimate 
Duke of Monmouth for the succession to the throne was, of course, 
a challenge to established constitutional principles. It is not sur- 
prising, therefore, that the old political doctrines of the French 
Huguenots, of Buchanan, of Milton and Harrington, as well as 
of a host of other pamphleteers of the Commonwealth period and 
later, now enjoyed a new life in the propaganda of the Whigs. They 
provided much of the current philosophy of the rights of the sub- 
ject: government exists, not for the governors, but for the benefit 
of the governed, aod its legitimacy is to be judged accordingly; 
government can exercise no authority against the will of the people; 
government is established by a contract between ruler and ruled, 
and when the ruler breaks this contract it becomes void. Dryden 
condensed the mass of this argument in the speeches of Achitophel, 
which could easily be illustrated at length from the pamphlets of 
the Whigs. At times he even tones down Whig extravagance. 
Thus, in a very violent Whig pamphlet of 1679, An Appeal from 
the Country to the City, we read: 

^ See especially Absalom and Achitophdy 11. 511-532. 

144 5^^^ Milieu of John Dryden 

The greatest danger accruing to your Persons, as well as to the 
whole Kingdom, upon the King's untimely death, will proceed 
from a confusion and want of some eminent and interested person, 
whom you may trust to lead you up against a French and Popish 
Army: for which purpose no person is Fitter than his Grace the 
Duke of Monmouth^ as well for quality, courage and conduct, as 
for that his Life and Fortune depends upon the same bottom with 
yours: he will stand by you, and therefore ought you to stand by 
him. And remember, the old Rule is. He who hath the worst Title, 
ever makes the best King; as being constraint by a gracious Govern- 
ment, to supply what he wants in Title; that instead of God and 
my Right, his Motto may be, God and my Peo-ple?"^ 

Achitophel says the same thing in a much milder way to Absalom: 

And Nobler is a limited Command, 
Giv'n by the Love of all your Native Land, 
Than a Successive Title, Long, and Dark, 
Drawn from the Mouldy Rolls of Noah's zik?^ 

But the essence of Whig doctrine is condensed into a few lines in 

The Medal: 

He preaches to the Crowd that Pow'r is lent, 

But not convey'd to Kingly Government; 

That Claimes successive bear no binding force; 

That Coronation Oaths are things of course; 

Maintains the Multitude can never err; 

And sets the People in the Papal Chair. 

The reason's obvious: Int'rest never lyes; 

The most have still their Int'rest in their eyes; 

The pow'r is always theirs, and pow'r is ever wise. 

Almighty crowd, thou shorten'st all dispute; 

Power is thy Essence; Wit thy Attribute! 

Nor Faith nor Reason make thee at a stay. 

Thou leapst o'er all Eternal truths in thy Pindarique way! " 

Whiggism involved the belief, not only in the right of the people 
to the ultimate authority in government, without any check, but 
also in the wisdom of their having it. As Dryden saw it, to be a 
good Whig one must have, or pretend to have, unbounded con- 
fidence in human nature in the mass. 

" An Appeal from the Country to the City; For the Preservation of His Majesties 
Person, Liberty, Property, and the Protestant Religion. Salus Populi, Suprema Lex. 
(London, 1679). The pamphlet is significantly signed "Junius Brutus," the 
pseudonym of the author of Vindicid contra Tyrannos. 

" Absalom and Achitophel, 11. 299-302. " The Medal, 11. 82-94. 

Toryism 145 

Such was Dryden's conception of the Whig party, Its principles, 
its antecedents, and its ultimate goal. The analysis might be ex- 
tended to greater length and profusely documented from Whig 
pamphlets, books, and newspapers. But our only purpose here is 
to show how Dryden envisaged the political problems of his time, 
and how he sought in them for fundamental and leading prm- 
ciples — how he reduced the chaos to order in his own mind. If it 
was truly said by Dr. Johnson that Dryden found the English 
language brick and left it marble, the remark is even more appro- 
priate to the political and religious controversies which he handled 
with intellectual as well as artistic distinction. It is evident enough 
that he wrote these controversial poems only after wide reading 
and laborious study. He was not a methodical research scholar — 
such as John Selden — , he was not an impartial student of history; 
but neither was he an irresponsible pamphleteer. His estimate of 
the Whigs may appear to us to be mistaken; but given Dryden's 
native temperament and cast of mind, as well as the historical 
knowledge at his disposal, and his dread of a Whig triumph be- 
comes easily understandable. For his Toryism may almost be 
defined as a fear of Whig control over the destinies of England. 


If the Whigs, as Dryden conceived the matter, were demagogic 
flatterers of human nature, the Tories safely avoided that error. 
Dryden's whole statement of Tory belief is a series of variations 
on the theme that government must save human nature from itself. 
Of noTory tenet is this more true than of that much-misunderstood 
doctrine of the divine right of kings. 

This theory, which sought to give a religious sanction to 
government, was not of ecclesiastical origin. On the contrary, it 
arose only because it was necessary in the Middle Ages to assert 
the independent right of secular authority as against the imperial- 
istic claims of the papacy. When the advocates of papal suprem- 
acy maintained that the pope, as holding his authority from God 
aloncj could interfere with the conduct of secular governments, it 
was natural to reply that kings, also, hold their authority from 
God. The theory of the divine right of kings was therefore at first 

146 The Milieu of John Dryden 

of a liberal and popular nature, and in its time served a very im- 
portant and useful purpose.^^ 

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it seem.s to have 
been accepted or rejected by the various parties according as ex- 
pediency dictated. Those Protestant churches which were state 
churches, and which therefore leaned for support on the authority 
of the king or prince, adhered to the theory. Outcast sects with- 
out legal status, threatened every moment with persecution by 
the secular authorities, were inclined to deny that these authorities 
governed by any divine sanction; they welcomed another theory, 
the theory of salus populi suprema leXy which, interpreted, could 
mean that the people had a right to judge and cashier kings. Then 
there were the Jesuits, who loved no kings but Spanish ones; a 
whole group of famous Jesuit political writers, passionately de- 
voted to the spread of Catholicism and the extermination of heresy, 
developed such doctrines as the right of orthodox subjects to rebel 
against heretic princes; and in the pursuit of this end they particu- 
larly sought to degrade secular authority by relegating it to the 
level of a mere human convenience. The Jesuits were, therefore, 
as we have seen Dryden pointing out, at one with the English 
Whigs and Dissenters in political theory. They were at one in 
denying the sacredness of secular authority. 

It was these dangers, real or imagined, to the stability of the 
state that gave the theory of divine right such a remarkable re- 
newal of vitality in seventeenth-century England. Conservative- 
minded men counted upon it more than upon any other doctrine to 
impress the duty of obedience upon the consciences of subjects. 
The fact that it was challenged, not only in theoretical discussion, 
but in practical politics, the fact that a civil war had ravaged the 
country and a king had been put to death by his subjects, only lent 
the theory all the greater importance, as demonstrating that it was 
absolutely necessary to the preservation of law and order. The 
Anglican Church, of course, championed it against the Sects. It 
became the informing principle of that remarkable loyalist senti- 
ment which, in the face of the political stupidity and misconduct 

'° See the classic treatise by John Neville Figgis, Th^ Divine Right of KingSy 
2d ed. (Cambridge, 1914). 

Toryism 147 

of the Stuart monarchs, distinguished in succession the Cavaliers, 
the Tories of the reigns of Charles II and James II, and the Jacob- 
ites after 1688. The strength and vitaHty of the theory of divine 
right in England cannot be explained as theological pedantry; it 
was a statement in the best terminology then available of a vital 
political truth. 

What the doctrine really meant in the time of Dryden was that 
there must be in government an ultimate authority beyond which 
there can be no appeal. When that authority has spoken, it can- 
not be impugned or brought to trial for its decision without crum- 
bling the fabric of government. As Dryden put it, if the people 

. . . may Give and Take when e'er they please, 
Not Kings alone, (the Godheads Images,) 
But Government it self at length must fall 
To Natures state, where all have Right to all.^^ 

Dryden proceeds in the next lines to a thoroughly pragmatic justi- 
fication of the theory: 

Yet, grant our Lords the People, Kings can make. 

What prudent man a setled Throne woud shake? 

For whatsoe'r their Sufferings were before, 

That Change they Covet makes them suffer more. *^ 

All other Errors but disturb a State; 

But Innovation is the Blow of Fate. 

If ancient Fabricks nod, and threat to fall, 

To Patch the Flaws, and Buttress up the Wall, 

Thus far 'tis Duty; but here fix the Mark: 

For all beyond it is to touch our Ark. 

To Change Foundations, cast the Frame anew, 

Is work for Rebels who base Ends pursue: 

At once Divine and Humane Laws controul, 

Aniijiend the Parts by ruine of the Whole. 

The tamping World is subject to this Curse, 

To Physick their Disease into a Worse. 

Men did not adhere to the doctrine of divine right because of any 
blind admiration for supposed virtues or saintliness in the Stuart 
monarchs; the real explanation must be sought in an entirely dif- 
ferent direction, in a vivid consciousness of the dangers of ''inno- 
vation." Dryden even says that the doctrine was for this reason 
established as part of the English constitution by **our fathers," 

" Absalom and Achitophel^ 11. 791-794. 

148 The Milieu of John Dry den 

Who, to destroy the seeds of Civil War, 
Inherent right in Monarchs did declare: 
And, that a lawful! Pow'r might never cease, 
Secur'd Succession, to secure our Peace.^^ 

( A theory of divine right conceived in such an historical and utili- 
<^ tarian spirit is well on the way to becoming a modern doctrine of 
the sovereignty of the state. 

The Whigs of course believed that the theory meant nothing 
but absolutism and ** arbitrary" government; they accused the 
Tories of an intention — or at least a willingness — to sacrifice the 
ancient English rights of the subject in order to enlarge the royal 
prerogative. Whether there were many such Tories might be 
questioned; this much is certain, Dryden was not one of them. 
He expressed himself on this subject repeatedly and emphatically. 
Toward the close of his life he made a noble testament of his 
principles in his epistle to his kinsman John Driden, in which, as he 
stated in his letter to Montague, he gives his ''opinion of what an 
Englishman in Parliament ought to be, and deliver it as a memorial 
of my own principles to all posterity. ^^ He referred proudly to 
his grandfather's imprisonment for refusing to meet an irregular 
levy of money under Charles I. But Dryden was not retracting 
his principles in his old age; he was only confirming what he had 
frequently said before. As early as 1678, in the dedication o{ All 
for Love to Danby, then Lord Treasurer, he thus defined the prob- 
lem of an English statesman: ''Moderation is doubtless an es- 
tablishment of greatness; but there is a steadiness of temper which 
is likewise requisite in a minister of state; so equal a mixture of 
both virtues, that he may stand like an isthmus betwixt the two 
encroaching seas of arbitrary power, and lawless anarchy. . . . For 
no Christian monarchy is so absolute, but it is circumscribed with 
laws. . . . The nature of our government, above all others, is 
exactly suited to both the situation of our country, and the temper 
of the natives. . . . And, therefore, neither the arbitrary power of 
One, in a monarchy, nor of Many, in a commonwealth, could make 
us greater than we are." ^^ 

This thoroughly English conception of constitutional mon- 

" The Medal, 11. 113-116. " f^orks, XI, 70, n. » Ibid., V, 320-321. 

Toryism 149 

archy, with checks and balances to insure the freedom of the 
subject as well as the stability of the state, Dryden recurs to 
again and again. In Absalom and Achitophel (11. 977-978) David 
sarcastically remarks that 

A king's at least a part of Government, 
And mine as requisite as their Consent. 

In The Medal {\\. 1 17-1 18), after the passage on how *'our fathers*' 
declared inherent rights in monarchs and established a secure suc- 
cession, Dryden continues: 

Thus Property and Sovereign Sway, at last 
In equal Balances were justly cast.^ 

In the same poem (11. 247-251) the Englishman in him speaks 


Our Temp'rate Isle will no extremes sustain 
Of pop'lar Sway or Arbitrary Reign: 
But slides between them both into the best; 
Secure in freedom, in a Monarch blest. 

From the Vindication of the Duke of Guise one might quote some- 
what profusely to the same effect, but the following passage must 
suffice: "Neither does it follow, as our authors urge, that an un- 
alterable succession supposes England to be the king's estate, and 
the people his goods and chattels on it. For the preservation of 
his right destroys not our propriety, but maintains us in it." ^^ 
Dryden's Toryism was eminently reasonable and constitutional. 
And if some modern admirer of Burke were to search in the po- 
litical literature of the late seventeenth century for some faint an- 
ticipations of the temper and principles of Burke, he would not 
find much to his taste in the Whig pamphleteers, but a great deal 
in John Dryden. Dryden deserves that high praise. For if he 
seems at first glance to be the champion of theories and loyalties 

^ On the political significance of "property" see also The Medal, 11. 31 1-3 12, 
and Absalom and Jchitophel, 11. 499-500: 

By these the Springs of Property were bent, 

And wound so high, they Crack'd the Government. 

These passages do not refer to Harrington's theory that power follows property, 
but to the current Whig propaganda that those who have the property should have 
the political power. ^ fVorks, VII, 215. 

150 The Milieu of John Dry den 

of mere historic interest, extinct with a phase of English history, 
on closer examination he turns out to be more than that; he was 
definitely and consciously an Englishman in his political thought 
and feeling, and he cherished his national traditions of freedom. 
The perpetual problem of politics is to preserve both the freedom 
of the individual and the continuity of the national traditions. 
The terminology and formulae of this problem vary from age to 
age; but the insights and realities behind these transient formulae 
continue from age to age and reappear in new guises. Dryden*s 
political poems, if read in this spirit, are still of vital interest to us. 
They speak the fundamental convictions of the conservative tem- 
perament, but also of the Englishman. There was in Dryden 
something even of the spirit of that Revolution which he never 
could bring himself to accept." 

" Some aspects of Dryden's politics under James II are discussed in Ap- 
pendix D. 



THIS study has not attempted to trace the ''growth of a 
poet's mind." Occasionally it has been possible to estab- 
lish points of chronology in Dryden's reading, in his intellectual in- 
terests, and in the settlement of his convictions; but most of our 
data remain too vague chronologically to establish any definite 
stages in the development of his thought. On the whole, it seems 
most likely that his ideas underwent no very violent change, but 
merely a clarification, as he added gradually to his stock of ideas 
in philosophy, religion, and politics, and as one after another the 
problems of his time pressed for a solution. Thus we do not know 
whether he made the acquaintance of philosophical skepticism 
before or after he became a Royalist in politics; it is entirely 
possible that he had been both skeptical and conservative for some 
time before he became aware of any connection in principle be- 
tween the two tendencies. The growth of his thought to maturity 
appears to have been slow and uncertain, but on the whole, from 
his point of view at least, sound. Though he tarried to examine 
everything and try everything, yet from a sufficient distance and 
with perspective, his somewhat erratic and zigzag course does 
move with consistency toward a goal; he was a robust individu- 
ality, with strong instincts. If, from one point of view, the history 
of his mind is a clarification of his ideas and a reduction of them 
to some sort of order, from another it appears to be the triumph 
of his instincts and his temperament over the multitude of intel- 
lectual distractions, such as Hobbism, materialism. Deism, and 
other temptations of the time, each of which for a season exercised 
its fascination upon his intelligence. Dryden was not a philosopher 
in the strict sense of the word; the organizing force in his nature, 
which gives unity to his work, is as much his temperament as his 

152 The Milieu of John Dry den 

He was not a discoverer of new ideas; his whole intellectual 
biography consists of his ardent and curious examination and test- 
ing of those ideas which were current in his age. He is conse- 
quently easily misunderstood if detached from his intellectual 
milieu. And both his temperament and his intellectual character 
must be defined in terms of what he rejected as well as of what he 
appropriated. For, although it may be admitted that he was 
fortunate to live in an age that provided him with precisely those 
ideas which he could make peculiarly his own, nevertheless the 
offerings of his age were no simpler than those of any other; and 
his success in achieving something like centrality and consistency 
in his intellectual life testifies to both the seriousness and the 
strength of his mind. His intellectual reactions are as thoroughly 
characteristic of him as his style, and manifest the same qualities 
of the man. 

The final value of a study of Dryden's adventures among ideas 
lies, no doubt, in what it contributes to an understanding of the 
poet's personality. His versatility has long been recognized, usu- 
ally with the qualifying suspicion or assumption that it precludes 
his having had any high purpose. But Dryden tried very seriously 
to find himself, and he eventually succeeded, even though at a 
mature age. Only a mind thus vigorously exercised could have 
produced prose and poetry of such solid and enduring value as he 
has left. The weft of his style crossed a strong warp of thought, 
skillfully laid to form the base of the completed pattern. 

When Dryden said that he laid by his ''natural diflftdence and 
scepticism for a while" to take up the dogmatical way of Lucretius 
for the purpose of translating him, he indicated his own essential 
quality both of mind and temperament. His philosophical skep- 
ticism has been discussed at large in this study. His native dif- 
fidence of manner has been attested to by Congreve, who knew 
him in his old age: 

He was of very easy, I may say, of very pleasing access; but 
something slow, and as it were diffident in his advances to others. 
He had something in his nature that abhorred intrusion into any 
society whatsoever. Indeed it is to be regretted that he was rather 
blamable in the other extreme; for, by that means, he was per- 

Conclusion 153 

sonally less known, and consequently his character might become 
liable both to misapprehensions and misrepresentations. 

To the best of my knowledge and observation, he was, of all 
the men that ever I knew, one of the most modest, and the most 
easily to be discountenanced in his approaches, either to his su- 
periors or equals.^ 

It is apparent how deeply the skeptical way of thinking was rooted 
in his whole nature, what an admirably fitted philosophical medium 
it was for the expression of his inborn temperament. A man whose 
intellectual possessions are so obviously his birthright should not 
be hastily set down as insincere. 

As Dryden's sincerity may be discovered in his appropriation 
of exactly those ideas of his age which fitted him, so his consistency 
is to be understood from the historical development of those ideas. 
Some of the extensive ramifications of Pyrrhonism in the thought 
of the seventeenth century have been traced in the preceding pages 
of this study. It is obvious that the man who in that century 
found himself inclined to philosophical skepticism was likely to 
find his views to some extent determined thereby in such distantly 
related subjects as religion and politics. For if Pyrrhonism has 
made many ** libertines" and "free-thinkers," it has had a far 
more distinguished following among serious-minded men of con- 
servative tendencies in Church and State. Among the many great 
names representative of this comprehensive and important tra- 
dition of the century Dryden's is not the least. A survey of the 
history of the whole tradition reveals, therefore, as no mere analy- 
sis or commentary can, the fundamental and intimate relationship 
between Dryden's philosophical skepticism and his conservatism 
and traditionalism in religion and politics. The consistency of 
his thought is perhaps better not regarded as entirely a matter 
of logic; it is the consistency of a man who came to understand 
one of the profound impulsions of his age, through which also he 
could define and express his own temperament and convictions. 

If such considerations as these are sound, Dryden is even on 
the intellectual side a significant and an imposing figure. He repre- 
sents an important aspect of the seventeenth century. His poems 

^ Dedication to Dryden's Dramatic Works (171 7). 

154 ^^^ Milieu of John Dry den 

on religion should be studied along with Montaigne, Charron, Pas- 
cal, Bishop Huet; his poems on politics would profit the historian 
of political thought as much as the writings of Hobbes — certainly 
more than the treatises of Filmer. But any work of first-rate his- 
torical importance has also some intrinsic value as an enrichment 
of the experience of later generations. Conservatives and liberals 
we shall always, fortunately, have with us. Those who belong to 
the same camp recognize and salute one another, however widely 
they may differ on particular doctrines in economics, politics, or 
theology; they are somehow like-minded and understand one an- 
other. Dryden has always had, and probably for a long time to 
come will have, some small following of those who delight not only 
in relishing his phrases, but also in thinking his thoughts. For such 
readers his work is one of the classic expressions of the conservative 





THE earliest guide to the controversial writings of both sides 
from the Reformation to the end of the reign of James II is 
Charles Dodd, Certamen Utriusque Ecclesiae: or A List of all the 
Eminent Writers of Controversy, Catholicks and Protestants, since the 
Reformation, published in 1724. It has been reprinted in the Pub- 
lications of the Chetham Society, Vol. LXIV (1865). It is still the 
best point of departure for a bibliographical study of the subject, 
but its skeletonized outlines must be supplemented by the lists of 
publications of each Roman Catholic writer in Charles Dodd's 
Church History of England, 3 vols. (Brussels, 1737-42), and in J. 
Gillow's Literary and Biographical History or Bibliographical Dic- 
tionary of the English Catholics, 5 vols. (London and New York, 

The earliest bibliography of the Protestant publications during 
the reign of James II is The Catalogue of all the Discourses published 
against Popery during the Reign of King James II., by Edward Gee, 
34 pp. (London, 1689). In 1735 Francis Peck published A complete 
Catalogue of all the Discourses written, both for and against Popery, 
in the Time of King James II., which, according to the title-page, 
contained four hundred and fifty-seven titles of books and pam- 
phlets. Peck's work was made the basis of A Catalogue of the Col- 
lection of Tracts for and against Popery {Published in or about the 
Reign of James II.) in the Manchester Library founded by Humphrey 
Chetham, edited by Thomas Jones, Publications of the Chetham So- 
ciety, Vols. XLVIII (1859) and LXIV (1865). 

The more important Anglican pamphlets of the reign of James 

156 The Milieu of John Dry den 

II were collected under the title A Preservative against Poperjy 3 
volumes folio (London, 1738), by Bishop Edmund Gibson; this 
collection was reprinted in 18 volumes, edited by the Reverend 
John Gumming (London, 1848-49). 



From Bodleian Ms. Rawlinson G. 984. 
fol. 16. A Paris le 12 Mars 1678 


La Personne que vous voulez bien honorer de Votre 
protection se prepare pour Vous aller rendre ses deuoirs et 
Vous remercier de routes les bontez que Vous auez eiies 
pour elle. La peur quelle a eue de Vous estre incommode 
la obligee de retarder son uoyage. Nous ne pouuons nous 
lasser dadmirer uostre generosite et linclination que Vous 
auez a faire du bien a tout le monde, cependant ie croy quil 
est a propos dexaminer le merite et la vie des gens deuant 
que de les employer parce que la pluspart sont ignorans ou 
libertins. Quand lAngleterre seroit deliuree dune partie des 
personnes ramassees a Londre elle nen seroit pas plus mal. 
On continue a parler auec estime de Monsieur de Veil, ses 
ennemis mesme en disent du bien. I'Histoire Gritique de la 
Bible sera bien tost acheuee. II nya plus que la Table et la 
f. 17. preface a imprimer des aussi tost quelle sera acheuee ie ne 
manquerai pas de uous lenuoyer. Lautheur est un Pere de 
loratoire nomme Simon que Vous auez veu autrefois a Paris. 
Mons. de Veil pourra examiner ce traitte la et Vous en 
rendre compte. Ge pere Simon est Scauant, qui a de les- 

Appendix B 157 

prit du bon Sens et qui Scait les langues orientales. Son 
ouurage est attendu parce quil est hardi. 
le suis auec respect 

Votre tres Humble et tres obelssant serulteur 


f. 27. A Paris le 13 Auril 1678 


le vous suis infiniment oblige de I'honneur que uous 
mauez faict de mecrire et de la bonte que uous auez de me 
donner auis de ce que se faict de nouueau dans vostre Isle 
qui ne produit que de bonnes choses et des ouurages con- 
siderables. Vne demK qui retourne en Angleterre laquelle 
est ma parente uous donnera THistoire du texte Sacree dont 
ie vous ai parle. elle est imparfaite et point reliee parce 
qu*on veut la defFendre y ayant des propositions hardies et 
contraires au respect et a la veneration que nous deuons 
auoir pour la bible. La peur que iay eue de nen pouuoir 
auoir ma constraint a Vous lofFrir dans un miserable estat 
dont i'ay bien de la confusion. Sans cette facheuse conjoin- 
ture et le depart de Mad.'® delorme ma parente ie naurais 
pas ose uous ofFrir un ouurage si imparfait. Comme ie n'ai 
f. 28. eu pour but que de contenter votre curiosite, iespere que 
Vous m'excuserez et que vous aurez assez de bonte pour 
croire que ien aurois use dune autre maniere si ie nauois 
pas este contraint. lay bien de la ioye de ce que la personne 
dont uous me parlez dans uotre lettre se porte au bien et 
quelle responde a lesperance quon a eue delle, ce qui luy 
faict esperer que Vous luy continuerez I'honneur de Votre 
protection et que Vous luy donnerez le moyen de seruir un 
iour lEglise Anglicane et Vous donner des marques de sa 
reconnoissance. Comme Vous auez quantite d'habiles gens 
ie ne doute point quon n*examine auec soin et exactitude le 
liure que ie Vous enuoye dont des esprits foibles peuuent 
abuser. M"^. Walton y est critique et Monsieur Vossius 

158 The Milieu of John Dry den 

aussi, ce qui me faict croire que quil \_sic!~\ nen entreprendra 
la defFense du premier. M'^. de V. est propre pour lexami- 
ner et pour marquer les endroits qui ne seront pas bien 
prouuez ny appuyez. le serai bien aise de scauoir le iuge- 
ment quen auront faict uos docteurs. Lautheur a pour 
Vous beaucoup destime et de respect et Vous honore infini- 
ment. Cest un homme desprit mais hardi. le Vous de- 
mande pardon de Vous estre importun et Vous supplie de 
croire que ie suis veritablement et auec respect 

Votre tres humble et tres obeissant Seruiteur 







A / Critical / History / of the / Old Testament. / Written 
originally in French, / By Father Simon, Priest of the Con- / gre- 
gation of the Oratory; / And since translated into English, / By a 
Person of Quality. / London, / Printed, and are to be sold by 
Walter Davis in Amen-Corner. / MDCLXXXII. 


1. Title-page and To the Reader, A and A2. 

2. The Author s Preface Translated out of French, a-b*. 

3. A Table of the Chapters, c^. 

4. Book I., B-ZS Aa-Dd^ 

5. Book II., A-YS Z\ 

6. Book III., Aaa-Yyy4, Zzz^. 

7. A Catalogue of the chief Editions of the Bible, and A Catalogue of Jewish and 
other Authours, ^sV- 

Appendix C 159 


A / Critical History / of the / Old Testament, / In Three 
Books: / The First treating at large concerning the / several 
Authours of the Bible. / The Siecond containing the History of the 
chief / Translations of the Bible, made either by / Jews or Chris- 
tians. / The Third laying down Rules whereby a more / exact 
Translation may be made of the Scripture / than hitherto has 
been. / Written Originally by Father Simon of the Oratory. / With 
a Supplement, being a Defence of/ The Critical History, in Answer 
to / Mr. Spanheim's Treatise against it. / Both Translated into 
English by H. D. / London. / Printed for Jacob Tonson, at the 
Judge's Head in Chancery- / lane, near Fleetstreet. 1682. 


1. Title-page and two leaves of commendatory poems. 

2. J Catalogue of the chief Editions of the Bible, and A Catalogue of Jewish and 
other AuthourSy with the same signatures as in the other issue. 

3. An Answer to Mr. Spanheim's Letter, 61f-ii^S I2l[2. 

4. The Davis title-page, the author's preface, table of chapters, and the three 
Books, exactly as in the first issue. 

i6o The Milieu of John Dry den 



THE state of mind of the English CathoHcs in the reign of 
James II is a subject which has a very direct bearing on our 
understanding and judgment of Dryden. His conversion after the 
accession of James has brought upon him a very general suspicion 
of acting upon merely prudential and worldly-wise motives, of 
having decided that a pension was worth a mass. Thus Christie, 
who never forgave Dryden anything, says that "it is hard to be- 
lieve that in this great change, coming so soon after James's ac- 
cession, . . . visions of greater worldly advantage did not influence 
Dryden." ^ Christie's opinion on Dryden's character would hardly 
be worth quoting, except that on this point his judgment is sup- 
ported by many more temperate critics. Thus Mr. Allardyce 
NicoU has recently written: "The actual conversion, I have not 
the slightest doubt, was the result of not purely disinterested re- 
solves. The Poet Laureate of a Catholic king was more likely to 
succeed if he himself were a Catholic." ^ The assumption is, of 
course, that English Catholics were enjoying a springtime of peace 
and prosperity under the blessing of a monarch of their own 
persuasion. Mr. Nicoll indeed observes on his own account that 
there were dangers ahead: "With Charles' decease," he says, "the 
temper of the age began to change. James was a Catholic, and 
Catholicism was hated and feared in England. It was inevitable 
that after his reign a Protestant should come to the throne. Ap- 
parently few contemporaries realized this, and Dryden at first may 
have rejoiced at the change." ^ "Apparently few contemporaries 
realized this." One could not have hazarded a wilder guess. The 
heir to the throne — since James had no son — was his daughter 

* Poetical Works of John Dryden^ Globe edition, Memoiry p. Iviii. 

* Dryden and His Poetry (London, 1923), pp. 95-96. ' Ibid.y p. 95. 

Appendix D i6i 

Mary, wife to William of Orange, the courageous and determined 
leader of the Protestant interest in Europe. All the politics of the 
reign of James revolved about this prospect of an inevitable Protes- 
tant successor to the Catholic incumbent. Every man in England 
was thinking about it. Those embittered English who never rec- 
onciled themselves to the idea of a Catholic monarch were look- 
ing toward Holland, whence their deliverance was sure to come in 
time. The moderates, who believed that James was the constitu- 
tional and rightful king, even though his Catholicism was awkward 
and possibly dangerous, aimed chiefly to keep him to a trimming 
course until his death and the coming of William and Mary would 
put an end to the anomaly. The Catholics themselves were divided 
into two factions: those who wanted James to confine himself to 
moderate courses and keep up a good understanding with William; 
and those who thought that the king must act swiftly and deci- 
sively to liberate English Catholics from all their legal penalties 
and to make the Catholic Church in England absolutely secure 
from legal oppression forever; because, said these latter, when 
James in the not distant future dies, and William comes over, all 
hope of deliverance from these oppressive laws will be gone. James 
followed the advice of this second faction. Throughout the four 
years of his reign he was working against time. His attempts to 
coerce the English Parliament, his policy with the army and in 
Ireland, his appointments of Catholics to military and civil posts, 
were all desperate measures to do something for the liberation of the 
Catholics before it should be too late. English Catholics were so 
apprehensive of the inevitable coming over of William and Mary 
that when in 1686 the queen was in ill health, they were, in fact, 
cheered by the news; if she should die, they reasoned, the king 
might promptly marry again and possibly have a male heir, who 
would of course be brought up a Catholic, to exclude William and 
Mary.* The queen however lived on, and in 1688 actually pre- 
sented the king with a son and the country with an heir to the 
throne. The Catholics were happy, but the rest of the country 
was in consternation; the more violent Whigs of the time even de- 

* Terriesi's dispatches, 16/26 April, 26 April/6 May, 31 May/io June, and 26 
August, 1686. Add. Mss. 25, 372, fol. 33, 44, 105-106 and 206. 

1 62 The Milieu of John Dry den 

clared that the birth was a pretence to cheat WilHam and Mary of 
the succession, and that the pretended heir had been smuggled in 
in a warming pan. By this time, however, the career of James was 
nearly over; William fitted out six hundred ships in Holland and 
descended upon the coast of England as her deliverer; in Decem- 
ber James gave up, threw the Great Seal into the Thames and fled 
in disguise to France. Such are the essential and elementary facts 
about the reign of James II. 

First, a word as to the sources of the information we are in 
search of. Aside from some hints and anecdotes in the memoirs, 
letters, and pamphlets of the time, we have to rely on the diplo- 
matic correspondence of the reign, particularly that of ambassa- 
dors of the Catholic powers. The Dutch envoy either did not know 
much about what the Catholics thought, or he was not given to 
emphasizing that kind of information. But Barillon, the French 
ambassador, and Terriesi, the Florentine minister, were in close 
touch with English Catholics, and their dispatches are full of refer- 
ences to Catholic opinion; their testimony is the more valuable 
because they represent both the English factions; Barillon was 
intriguing with the extreme or Court party, and Terriesi was work- 
ing with the moderate Catholics. The papal nuncio, D'Adda, who 
was by nature reserved and circumspect, does not give very much 
information on our subject, but what he does give is of the highest 
authority. On the dispatches of these three representatives of 
Catholic powers I have chiefly relied in the following account.^ 

From these sources one may gather abundant evidence that the 
moderate English Catholics regarded the policies of James as pre- 
cipitating their ruin. And I think it is worthy of note that this 
evidence, first available to historians in the nineteenth century, 
corroborates an oral tradition recorded in 1781 by an English priest, 

^ Barillon's dispatches have been partly published in Charles James Fox, 
James the Second (1808), Appendix; in Mazure, Hist. Rev. (1825); in Marquise 
Campana di Cavelli, Les Derniers Stuarts a Saint-Germain en Laye (1871); I have 
made some transcripts of my own from the original correspondence in the French 
office of Foreign Affairs. 

For Terriesi I have used the transcription in the British Museum, Add. Mss. 

2S» 371—25. 375- 

For D'Adda I have used the British Museum transcription Add. Mss. 15395 
and 15396. 

Appendix D 163 

the Rev. Jos. Berington. "Bigoted, headstrong, and imprudent," 
he says of James II, "he had long before his accession, it seems, 
formed the design of new-modeUing the reHgion of his country. 
Had the exclusion-bill passed, and James never reigned, it would 
have been well for Catholics." ^ Berington also records that the 
Catholics were divided as to policy. 

The Catholics, as a body [he says] merit not the reprehension, 
I give to Petre and his associates. They saw the wretched folly 
and the weak views of those bad advisers; and they condemned 
the precipitancy of measures which, they knew, could only ter- 
minate in their ruin. As must ever be the case with all men, in a 
similar situation, they wished to be relieved from oppression; but 
the undisturbed practice of their religion, with the enjoyment of 
some few civil liberties, would have satisfied their most sanguine 
desires. This I know from certain information: But unhappily for 
them and for their descendants, the voice of prudence and of cool 
religion was not attended to, whilst wild zeal and romantic piety 
were called in to suggest schemes of folly, and to precipitate their 

Ironically enough, the very people whom James endeavored to 
liberate preserved his memory with detestation. The explanation 
of course lies in the events of his reign. 

The policy of James through his four turbulent years on the 
throne was marked by consistent obstinacy and constantly in- 
creasing recklessness. But he began rather well; his accession was 
unexpectedly peaceful, and he declared in Council that he would 
maintain the laws of England and do nothing against the safety 
and preservation of the Protestant religion. The king was known 
to be a man of his word, and the country accepted his speech with 
joy. Moreover, he immediately called a meeting of Parliament 
for April, which seemed to imply that the new king recognized the 
right of his loyal subjects to parliamentary government; for, ever 
since the stormy session of March, 1681, Charles had made shift 

' The State and Behaviour of English Catholics from the Reformation to the Year 
1781, 2d ed, (1781), p. 71. 

'' Ibid.y pp. 'J^-'jd. Dodd's Church History (1742), which expressed Catholic 
resentment against Father Petres and Sunderland, was, says Berington in his 
Preface, "of use to me. It contains many things, regarding Catholics, during that 
period, extremely curious and well authenticated." But Dodd, whose language was 
cautious, must have been supplemented by oral tradition. 

1 64 The Milieu of John Dry den 

to get along without calling that ungovernable body together. On 
the surface prospects seemed bright for a happy understanding be- 
tween the Catholic king and his Protestant subjects. 

But the king had not taken his subjects fully into his confidence. 
In spite of his declaration in Council, he was from the very mo- 
ment of his accession determined that his great aim should be to 
secure liberty of conscience for the Catholics. He said so to Baril- 
lon on February 19.^ This policy he intended to unfold gradually 
and discreetly, and to pursue with firmness. He expected support 
for it from the Anglican Church, which had steadily remained 
loyal to him throughout the period since the Popish Plot of 1678. 
But when the king and queen attended mass in state, the pulpits 
of London immediately resounded with denunciations of Papistry, 
and the king called the Archbishop and the Bishop of London be- 
fore him and sternly demanded that they control and discipline 
their clergy. The incident revealed clearly enough that the An- 
glican Church would regard toleration of Catholics as a deadly 
blow aimed at itself; and that James would find his plan imprac- 
ticable. Already the Catholics began to fear the king's policy; on 
March 12, hardly five weeks after the accession of James, Barillon 
reported to Louis XIV that the English Catholics were divided and 
that rich and old established families, who called themselves *'good 
English," urged a very moderate policy.^ But James did not listen 
to this prudent counsel. 

We must be careful, however, to state the king's aims with pre- 
cision and fairness. It is often said or implied that James intended 
to force Catholicism upon unwilling Protestants, at the point of 
the sword if necessary. I find no evidence of this. He must, of 
course, have hoped that Catholicism, once it was no longer ob- 
structed by penal laws, would flourish, but he could hardly have 
expected in his own lifetime to see it outnumber the Anglican 

8 Fox, App.y p. xix. For the next two sentences see Barillon, 26 February, in 
Fox, App., p. xxxiii. 

' "II est certain qu'il y a de la division parmi les Catholiques; les uns sont 
meme assez dangereux, car ils affectent une grande moderation; ils craignent les 
desordres, etant pour la plupart riches et bien etablis; ils pretendent etre bons 
Anglais, c'est-a-dire, ne pas desirer que le Roi d'Angleterre ote a la nation ses privi- 
leges et ses libertes." — Mazure, I, 403-404. Onno Klopp, Der Fall des Hauses 
Stuart, III, 27, gives the date March 12 for this dispatch. 

Appendix D 165 

Church. What James really wanted was a complete toleration of 
Catholics and a removal of all disqualifications upon them; au- 
thoritative contemporary accounts are decisive on this point; ^^ 
what James wanted to establish by law in England was — not the 
Catholic religion — but the security of the Catholic religion. If 
he could accomplish this, conversions, he believed, would be plenti- 
ful. The observation was frequently made during his reign that 
few people, and those not of any consequence, came over to the 
Catholic Church; James was convinced that this was due to fear 
of the ruinous penalties laid by the laws on such action. His first 
aim was, therefore, to abolish the penal laws, repeal the Test Act, 
and allow English Catholics equal opportunity with Protestants in 
the military or civil service of the king. 

The second point of his policy was to secure this liberation of the 
Catholics by act of Parliament; the tenacity with which he pur- 
sued this aim, the devious and questionable conduct which it led 
him into, attest the importance of it in his mind. He could easily 
have chosen a more direct policy; he could have exercised that dis- 
pensing power over the laws which he, as well as Charles before 
him, always believed that the constitution of England gave to the 
sovereign. But the exercise of this power would not have served 
James's purpose, precisely because such a solution could last only 

^° "Ce Prince m'expliqua a fonds son dessein a I'egard des Catholiques, qui est 
de les etablir dans une entiere liberte de conscience et d'exercice de la Religion." — 
Barillon, 26 February, 1685. Fox, App., p. xxxiii. 

D'Adda, 19 July 1686, relates a conversation with the king: " Passo di poi a 
parlare delle cose d'Inghilterra, e disse, che riconoscendo che il maggior vantaggio 
della Religione sarebbe risultato dal togliere le leggi penali, I'apprensione delle 
quali tratteneva infiniti dal convertir si, mentre facevano timorosi il conto sopra 
I'avenire, e sopra la mutatione dello stato presente, e la successione presuntiva del 
Principe d'Oranges, volendo un si gran male spirituale presente sul dubbio di un 
possibile danno temporale futuro, onde le sue applicationi erano rivolte onnina- 
mente a prendere le misure piu proprie ad ottenere questo fine, e levar di mezzo un 
si grand' ostacolo." 

In a dispatch of i November 1686, D'Adda reports that the king said "che 
riuscendo felicemente il disegno di porre li Cattolici in un piede equale agl' altri 
suditi suoi, e che la religione Cattolica non fosse ostacolo alcuno per essere con- 
siderati equalmente capaci delle cariche, e di tutto quello che cade in un Suddito 
Inglese sperava in poco tempo di veder fiorire in questo Regno la vera Religione 
cessando li timori che ora regnano in quelli, che sono il maggior numero di perdere 
li loro beni e che riguardano la successione del Principe d'Oranges troppo da vicino." 

i66 The Milieu of John Dryden 

as long as his own life; the real problem was to provide protection 
for the Catholics on that evil day when William should succeed 
him, and therefore only an act of Parliament would suffice. ^^ I 
stress this point, because it indicates with what obvious risk con- 
version to the Catholic Church at that time was attended. 

But, as has been said, James knew what difficulties his policies 
would raise. He determined to proceed cautiously, and step by 
step.^^ He appeared publicly at mass; he relaxed the laws against 
Catholics and Quakers; he gave an Irish regiment to Colonel 
Talbot, a Catholic, in defiance of the Test Act. But when Parlia- 
ment met in May he did not judge the time ripe for the full expo- 

^^ "A quanto poi Vostra Altezza Serenissima m'onora di scrivere in cifra re- 
plichero: Che se con il consenso del Parlamento non riesce a Sua Maesta di fare 
qualche passo solido e legale a favore de' Cattolici; che converra ne faccia per as- 
sicurarli a quale prezzo che sia qualcheduno de' violenti a meno di non volerli tutti 
sacrificare alia perfidia de* Protestanti doppo la sua morte." — Terriesi, 13 De- 
cember, 1686, 

"Vedendo bene che per rendere effetuale questa sua volonta per doppo la sua 
morte, o in fin a tanto almeno che non siano fatte leggi nuove in contrario, e che 
siano dal popolo ben ricevute, che e necessario che siano tali cose fatte da un 
Parlamento, e che fatte di violenza non servirano che ad inasprire il generale, et a 
fare che non vivessero temp piii lungo di quello che vivera la Maesta Sua." — Ter- 
riesi, 20/30 December, 1686. 

"E dubbio ancora se anco ad Aprile lascera sedere la Maesta del Re il Parla- 
mento, perche quando Sua Maesta lo lascera sedere, vuole in materia di religione 
che rimetta li Cattolici in Inghilterra nello stato libero e franco che sono tutti li 
altri sudditi della Maesta Sua, e che possino godere (essenti da ogni persequtione) 
delli avvantaggi istessi in temporale et in spirituale, che godano adesso li Protes- 
tanti, e che non vi siano piu leggi contro di essi, perche quando non lo volesse fare, 
dicano assolutamente che Sua Maesta lo dissolveria, e ne chiameria un nuovo. Di 
sorte che se e veto, come chi puol saperlo assevera, che e verissimo, che Sua Maesta 
vuole avanzare il servitio delli Cattolici per la strada della quiete, che e quella del 
^'arlamento, non vi e probabilita alcuna che voglia servirsi di quella della violenza, 
che fanno temere al popolo li seditiosi . . . ." — Terriesi, 17/27 January, 1686/7. 

^2 "Ce Prince m'expliqua a fonds son dessein a I'egard des Catholiques, qui est 
de les etablir dans une entiere liberte de conscience et d'exercice de la Religion; c'est 
ce qui ne se peut qu'avec du temps, et en conduisant peu-a-peu les affaires a ce but. 
Le plan de sa iVlajeste Britannique est d'y parvenir par le secours et I'assistance du 
parti episcopal, qu'il regarde comme le parti royal, et je ne vois pas que son dessein 
puisse aller a favoriser les Nonconformistes et les Presbiteriens, qu'il regarde 
comme de vrais republicains. 

"Ce projet doit etre accompagne de beaucoup de prudence, et recevra de 
grandes oppositions dans la suite." — Barillon, 26 February, 1685. In Fox, App.y 
p. xxxiii. 

Appendix D 167 

sure of his plans. He first asked for money, which he received. 
But the House of Commons anticipated the king by raising the 
religious question; after some outspoken debate it was voted " that 
an address should be made to the king, purporting that the house 
did entirely rely on his royal declaration, that he would defend and 
secure the reformed religion of the church of England, as by law 
established, by far dearer and nearer to them than their lives." ^^ 
This last phrase could only mean that the king's plans for estab- 
lishing the Catholic Church would be resisted even to civil war. 
The conduct of the House amply justified the apprehensions which 
had been felt before the session opened. ^^ 

For the moment, however, the rebellions led by Monmouth and 
Argyle excited the country to the exclusion of other matters, and 
solidified sentiment on the king's side. But James, who under- 
stood military matters better than politics, seized this occasion for 
increasing the size of the standing army and for giving commissions 
to a considerable number of Catholics. He intended that these ap- 
pointments should later be confirmed by Parliament, and that the 
Test Act, which prevented Catholics from holding any civil or 
military office, should be repealed. ^^ But again the king miscalcu- 
lated. The House of Commons in November again took the first 
step, and before the king was ready to propose his full program* 
the House complained about the large standing army and about 
the illegal army commissions, and drew up an address to his Maj- 
esty, stating that such dispensing of the law without act of Parlia- 
ment "is of the greatest concern to the rights of all your Majesty's 
subjects and to all the laws made for the security of their religion," 

" Memoirs of Sir John Reresby (1904), p. 263. 

^* "II n'y a point eu de Parlement depuis longtemps qui ait este si impor- 
tant que la sera celuycy, et dont les suites deussent estre d'un plus grand poids a 
I'avenir." — Barillon, 9 April, 1685. 

James expects to receive the revenues that Charles enjoyed, and to all appear- 
ances he will be granted them. "Mais cela ne met pas le Roi d'Angleterre en repos, 
et a son aise; car il ne peut avec reputation et avec surete abandonner la protection 
des Catholiques; cependant, il est fort apparent qu'il trouvera de grandes diffi- 
cultes a etablir une liberte d'exercice pour la religion Catholique. ... V. M. peut 
done tenir pour un fondement assure, que le Roi d'Angleterre trouvera d'extremes 
difficultes a ce qu'il veut faire en faveur de la religion Catholique." — Barillon, 30 
April, 1685. Fox, App.y p. Ixix. 

^* Barillon, 5 November, 1685. Fox, App., p. cxxxii. 

1 68 The Milieu of John Dry den 

and **we therefore ... do most humbly beseech your Majesty that 
you would be graciously pleased to give such directions therein that 
no apprehensions or jealousies may remain in the hearts of your 
Majesty's good and faithful subjects." ^® The king replied tartly, 
and in a few days prorogued Parliament until February — al- 
though the subsidies had not yet been voted — to prevent Parlia- 
ment from proceeding to a formal declaration against him. So far 
as his program of liberating the Catholics is concerned, the second 
session was an even more dismal omen than the first. 

The first year of the reign was, therefore, discouraging enough 
to James and to those who sympathized with his aims. But the 
English Catholics of established family entirely condemned his 
policies. Lord Ailesbury tells us in his Memoirs that at the time 
when the Commons addressed the king regarding the army com- 
missions, Lord Sunderland and Father Petres 

. . . began to lay the axe to the tree, by framing the king's speech 
so contrary to the sense of the old and landed Roman Catholics. 
Perhaps I may not repeat the very words, but refer you to the an- 
nals. "Let no man take exceptions at what I have done and I will 
stand by it." The two Houses were in a deep melancholy. That 
very evening, according to custom, I went to visit my worthy 
friend and kinsman the Lord Bellasis, who seldom stirred out, 
being so infirm in his limbs. There were some lords and gentlemen 
of great substance of the same persuasion. My Lord Bellasis, who 
was in a great chair, took me by the hand saying, *'My dear Lord, 
who could be the framer of this speech,? I date my ruin and that 
of all my persuasion from this day." This is true on my honour; 
and from that time downwards he expressed all grief and sorrow.^^ 

Such moderate Catholics were remembering the Popish Plot of 
1678 and expecting a return of a rigorous enforcement of penal 
laws upon the accession of William and Mary. They knew well 
the temper of England, and saw from the beginning that the poli- 
cies of James were impracticable and ruinous. They insisted that 
their welfare demanded a mutual understanding and harmony be- 
tween the king and Parliament; they feared the domination of 
Louis XIV in English politics; they counseled such a domestic 

*• Leopold von Ranke, History of Englandy IV, 274. 
" Memoirs of Thomas y Earl of Ailesbury (1890), p. 126. 

Appendix D 169 

policy as would find favor with William of Orange; and in foreign 
affairs they preferred an alliance with Holland, the Empire, and 
Spain against France. ^^ This policy was, of course, supported by 
the Spanish ambassador in London; and all the advice from Rome, 
where Cardinal Howard was the pope's trusted advisor on English 
affairs, was also for moderate courses. ^^ The pope at this time had 
his own quarrels with Louis XIV and the Gallicanism of the French 
Church, as well as with the Jesuits, and was therefore drawn into a 
sort of rapprochement^ not only with Spain and the Empire, but 
even with Holland and William of Orange. The desire of the Papal 
Curia to prevent an alliance between James and Louis XIV, there- 
fore, naturally threw the influence of Rome on the side of the 
moderate English Catholics. When Bishop Burnet, an English exile 
and a friend of William, was in Rome in November and Decem- 

^8 " Les Catholiques ne sont pas tout-a-fait d'accord entre eux. Les plus habiles 
et ceux qui ont plus de part a la confiance du Roy d'Angleterre connoissent bien 
que la conjoncture est la plus favorable qu'on puisse esperer, et que si on la laisse 
echapper, elle pourra bien n'estre de longtemps si avantageuse. Les Jesuits sont 
de ce sentiment qui sans doute est le plus raisonable; mais les Catholiques riches et 
etablis craignent I'avenir et apprehendent un retour qui les ruineroit; ainsy ils 
voudroient admettre tous les temperamens possibles et se contenteroient des plus 
mediocres avantages qu'on leur voudroit accorder, comme seroit la revocation des 
loix penales, sans s'attacher a la revocation du Test qui rend les Catholiques in- 
capables des charges et des emplois. Ce party est soustenu de tous les gens qui 
favorisent secrettement le Prince d'Orange, et leur avis prevandroit si les autres ne 
prennoient tous les soins possibles pour faire comprendre au- Roy d'Angleterre que 
s'il ne se sert de I'occasion, et qu'il n'etablisse presentement ce qu'il a dessein de 
faire pour les Catholiques et pour luy mesme, il verra tous les jours naistre de plus 
grands obstacles a ses desseins. Le naturel du Roy d'Angleterre le porte a tenir une 
conduite ferme et vigoureuse. Ceux de ses ministres qui sont dans les mesmes 
sentiments paroissent augmenter de credit." — Barillon, 12 November, 1685. Fox, 
App., p. cxxxv. 

"Les Catholiques mesmes sont partagez entre eux; Car les uns voudroient 
qu'on se servist de I'occasion presente qui ne pent estre plus favorable. Les autres 
craignent I'avenir et qu'ils ne se trouvent entierement ruinez dans un changement 
qu'on ne scauroit envisager comme fort eloigne, et dans cette veue ils se conten- 
teroient de la tolerance ou ils sont et de I'inexecution des loix sans en pretendre une 
revocation expresse. Ce dernier avis est fort dangereux, et laisse les Catholiques 
egalement exposez a I'avenir sans titer aucuns avantages de la conjoncture pre- 
sente. Le Roy d'Angleterre paroist a ses plus confidens determine a ne se pas re- 
lascher, mais on n'obmet aucun soin ny artifice pour I'engager a tenir une conduite 
moins ferme et a ne vouloir pas tout emporter d'abord." — Barillon, 22 Novem- 
ber, 1685. 

" Gilbert Burnet, History of His Own Times (Oxford, 1833), III, 84. 

lyo The Milieu of John Dry den 

ber of this year, 1685, Cardinal Howard freely expressed to him 
his despair regarding the situation in England. *'He saw," the 
bishop relates, that ''violent courses were more acceptable, and 
would probably be followed. And he added, that these were the 
production of England, far different from the counsels of Rome." 
But James, who was secretly receiving subsidies from Louis XIV, 
leaned also by personal preference to a French policy, and at Court 
the French influence was supported by Lord Sunderland — prob- 
ably the most changeable and least principled statesman in Eng- 
lish history — , by three or four Catholic peers of no great ability, 
and particularly by the Jesuit, Father Petres, an Englishman of 
noble family. By December, 1685, this Jesuit appears to have 
achieved a dominating influence over James, and to have been 
supported especially by the Jesuit order in London. ^^ His impor- 
tance in the king's councils could not have been a secret. In Octo- 
ber of this year James wrote the pope asking for a bishopric for 

2" "Les Catholiques sont divises sur les moyens dont il se faut servir. Ceux 
qui sont les plus riches et les mieux establis apprehendent fort I'avenir, et voudroient 
conserver leurs biens par une conduite moderee qu'on ne leur pust reprocher. Les 
gens qui ont le plus de relation a la Cour de Rome sont de ce sentiment, et tous 
ceux qui favorisent I'Espagne travaillent pour concilier les avis difFerens, et pre- 
tendent que pourvuque le Roy d'Angleterre soit dans des interests opposes a la 
France il aura les coeurs du peuple et de grands secours du Parlement. Le danger 
des Catholiques de cet avis est connu des Catholiques qui ont du sens et de ceux 
qui ont le plus de part a la confiance du Roy d'Angleterre, comme les Milords Aron- 
del, Pues, Castelmene et Dovres. Les Jesuits sont joints a eux, et I'apparence est 
que leurs conseils estant les plus sages et les plus seurs seront suivis; mais les autres 
feront encore des tentatives, et tascheront de faire connoistre au Roy d'Angleterre 
que le pis qui luy puisse arriver est de se passer de Parlement, qu'il peut encore 
essayer une fois si les esprits seront plus traittables, et pour les mieux disposer 
on essayera de faire que sa Majeste Brittanique temoigne de n'estre pas dans les 
interests de V. M. C'est sur quoy on attend un grand secours des ministres du 
Pape. Je ne scais pourtant point que Mr. d'Adda se sont encore explique sur cela. 
II paroist fort circonspect et retenu. II ecoute ce qu'on luy dit, et ne paroist pas 
ouvertement declare pour aucun party. — Barillon, 13 December, 1685. 

"Milord Sunderland m'a confie depuis peu des choses fort secrettes qui le re- 
gardent. II m'a dit que le Roy d'Angleterre luy a promis positivement de la faire 
President du Conseil apres I'assemblee du Parlement. . . . Sa Majeste Britannique 
a este determinee a luy promettre cette charge par un Jesuite nomme le Pere Piters 
qui a beaucoup de part en sa confiance. C'est un homme de condition et frere de 
feu Milord Piters. II luy a represente fortement combien il importoit d'acrediter 
et de recompenser un ministre qui le sert plus courageusement et plus fidellement 
que les autres." — Barillon, 26 November, 1685. Fox, App.y p. cxliv. 

Appendix D 171 

Petres.2^ But the pope refused for several reasons: Innocent XI 
was an enemy of the Jesuits; he would do nothing to encourage 
James in his rash domestic policies; he was unwilling to bestow 
ecclesiastical prestige on a man whose friendly policy towards 
France ran counter to the policy of the papal court; and finally, 
he had the sound reason, which was the only one he expressed in 
his replies to James, that Jesuits were by their vows excluded from 
elevation to offices in the Church hierarchy. But the disapproba- 
tion of the pope was no check on so obstinate a man as James; 
and after the pope had repeatedly refused a bishopric for Petres, 
James in 1687 began to ask a cardinal's cap for him; in which re- 
quest, needless to say, he was no more successful than in the for- 
mer. At home the influence of Petres over James augmented 
steadily, and to the consternation of both Protestants and Catho- 
lics the London Gazette on November 11, 1687, announced that this 
Jesuit had been appointed to the Privy Council. ^^ Father Petres 
must share with Sunderland and James himself the responsibility 
for the downfall of the king in 1688. 

To return to James and Parliament, James had hoped that the 
prorogation to February, 1686, might give him time and opportu- 
nity to manage more members and thus to be sure of a working 
majority. Few shared these hopes, and in January James himself 
acknowledged their futility. On the loth of January was an- 
nounced a further prorogation to the 20th of May.^^ But although 
James was thus facing defeat in his program for the emancipation 
of the Catholics, he and his cabal were nevertheless determined to 

" The most extensive collection of the documents on Father Petres is in 
an article by Bernard Duhr, S.J., "Die Anklagen gegen P. Edward Petre, S.J., 
Staatsrath Jacobs II.," Zeitschrift fiir katholische Theologig, Vol. X (i8S6) and XI 
(1887). The articles are otherwise an unconvincing exculpation of Petres. 

22 Terriesi, 14/24 November, 24 November/4 December, and 28 November/8 
December, 1687. 

" "Cette prorogation a surpris beaucoup de gens; quoy qu'il y ait eu lieu de 
la prevoir, on s'imaginoit que Sa Majeste Britannique voudroit encore essayer si le 
Parlement ne seroit pas plus traittable, et s'il ne se trouveroit pas quelques ex- 
pediens pour accomoder les affaires, mais ces sortes de tentatives sont toujours 
sujettes a beaucoup d'inconveniens. ... Ce Prince veut attendre que la faction 
soit affoiblie et que les esprits soient moins agitez. C'est ce qui n'arrivera peutestre 
de longtemps. Cependant son intention n'est pas de se relascher de ses resolu- 
tions. ..." — Barillon, lo January, 1686. 

172 The Milieu of John Dry den 

pursue their extreme measures with firmness. The Catholics of 
substance were discouraged and alarmed; in March Terriesi re- 
ported that many of them were contemplating selling their prop- 
erty and taking refuge abroad. ^'^ About this time, apparently in 
January, Dryden went over to the Catholic Church. ^^ 

The conduct of James during the three following years was dis- 
tressing to the Catholics for so many reasons that only two or three 
important aspects of them can be mentioned here. 

James continued to try coercion and influence on the members 
of Parliament. He tried closetings, threats, dismissals from office; 
all would not do. He never got a House of Commons that he dared 
to call in session. 

In regard to Ireland James appointed a rather irresponsible 
Catholic peer, the Duke of Tyrconnel, to the command of the army, 
and later made him Lord Lieutenant. Tyrconnel's mission was to 
organize the Irish government and man the army so that Ireland, 
when the worst should eventually happen, might be an asylum 
for the Catholics of England and separate itself from the British 
crown.2^ But this appointment raised a storm of indignation 

2* "Procurasi per altro, come s'e detto, di procurare per tutte le strade possibili 
la propalatione della Cattolica Religione, ma come non e possiblle di farlo, che per 
quelle che danno da temere alii Cattolici di qualche futuro malore, senza prima 
vedersi assicurate alia successione della Corona d'un altro Re Cattolico, vi sono di 
quelli che procurano di gia di mettersi in sicuro dal turbine, che prevedano, coll' 
alienatione delle loro sustanze; vedendo bene che senza una coperta tale, possano 
le procedure che si fanno a lor favore produire effetti non lasciati comprendere a 
chi li promuove dal zelo e dalla buona volonta che per essi tiene." — Terriesi, i/ii 
March, i68s/6. 

^ "Dryden, the famou-s play-writer, and his two sons, and Mrs. Nelly (miss 
to the late — ), were said to go to mass; such proselytes were no great loss to the 
Church." — Evelyn, Diary, January 19, 1686. 

2® "Si tiene per certo Serenissima Altezza che Sua Maesta sia per richiamare 
d'Irlanda ben presto Mylord Clarendon e mettere in quel governo Mylord Tre- 
conel Cattolico Irlandese; cosa che autentica il rapporto che corre che voglia 
Sua Maesta metter totalmente I'lrlanda in autorita e dominio nel potere dei Cat- 
tolici, e quello che viene piii considerato de' Cattolici d'Irlanda, ch' e un afFare che 
fa esclamare al cielo I'lnghilterra, che vede bene essere un mezzo per far perdere 
alia di lei monarchia quel Regno, subito dopo che havera serrato gli occhi Sua 
Maesta; e tutto cio dicesi che faccia alia rimostranza de' Cattolici, chi figurano a 
Sua Maesta con la successione imminente d'un Re Protestante loro acerrimo ne- 
mico la total distrutione di essi e de la loro Religione, a meno che non habbino una 
ritirata dove fortificarsi, come quella d'Irlanda, afFatto in lor potere, dove potranno 

Appendix D 173 

among the English Protestants; and among the CathoHcs it was 
opposed even in the Council; ^^ only Father Petres and those of his 
faction approved. 

In 1686 James decided to have the bench pronounce on the 
disputed question whether the royal prerogative mcluded the dis- 
pensing power over acts of Parliament. But since James did not in- 
tend to receive a decision except in his favor, he took pains first to 
see that the judges held orthodox opinions. When he sounded 
them out, he found that they were by no means unanimous. Those 
who had legal or conscientious objections to his doctrine were 
dismissed, and more pliable men were appointed to their places. 
Among these appointees was Christopher Milton, brother of the 
late poet, who was made baron of the exchequer. This renovated 
bench pronounced that James possessed the dispensing power. 

The Earl of Ailesbury, who was inclined to blame Sunderland 
and Petres more than James, has recorded Catholic opinion of this 

In order to ruin the King more and more by degrees they 
obliged him to make Romish Judges, and one of them — Milton — 
that had not common sense, and such to go on the benches through- 
out the kingdom. And to add, many Deputy Lieutenants and Jus- 
tices of the Peace were put into commission, and in my hearing, 
the worthy Sir William Goring, of Sussex, reproached his friends 
of the same religion for their folly and vanity, adding, ''You will 

con le propria forze e quelle del Re, mettendosi sotto la di lui protezione o dominio, 
discendere, se non la liberta, la religione almeno." — Terriesi, 22 October/ 1 No- 
vember, 1686. 

"" John Lingard (1849), XIII, 97. Cf. the following from a contemporary 
Protestant pamphlet: "The Queen was altogether for their Counsells, but the King 
was not so forwardly inclined, being every day set upon by all his Popish Lords, 
not to proceed too far, in the revolution o{ Ireland, for that would spoil the general 
interest of the Catholicks: and upon the Lord Bellasis, Pozvis, and some others of 
that Faction understanding that Neagle was come over, they were so transported 
with Rage, that they would have him immediately sent out of London. . . . Tyrcon- 
nel having compleated his design in modelling the Army, goes for England, and 
there consults with his party to obtain the Government of Ireland. The Kmg, 
Queen and Father Petres were for him; but the whole Council oi Papists oppos'd 
it, still urging how unacceptable he was to the English. . . ." — A Full and Im- 
partial Account of all the Secret Consults . . . of the Romish Party in Ireland (London, 
1690), pp. 54 and 59. The pamphleteer was misinformed on some details, but knew 
the facts about the general situation among the English Catholics. 

174 ^^^ Milieu of John Dry den 

ruin us all by it/* There were others of his opinion whose names 
are not in my memory. This Sir William went with the king as a 
volunteer to Salisbury, and afterwards retired, lived, and died in 
his native country beloved and esteemed by both religions gener- 
ally, and I knew many lords and great number of gentlemen of the 
Roman Catholics that lamented, crying out, "These measures will 
ruin us all." The Pope's Nuncio Dada (afterwards Cardinal) my 
very good friend, discoursed with me as often as he saw me on the 
same subject, and above all Don Pedro de Ronquillo, the Spanish 
Ambassador, my most intimate friend, and we frequented each 
other so often, and mutually greatly lamented these pernicious 
counsels given to the king by a cunning dissembler, and by a hot- 
headed, ignorant Churchman.^^ 

In April, 1687, the king, by virtue of his dispensing power, issued 
the Declaration of Indulgence, and thus liberated Catholics and 
all other dissenting sects from the penal laws. The joy was of 
course great, but it was by no means universal, among either Dis- 
senters or Catholics. The Dissenters scrutinized the political mo- 
tives behind the Declaration. The Catholics reflected that the 
Declaration could have force only during the life of James, and that 
their brief period of freedom would be paid for by a more relentless 
persecution under William. The moderate Catholics therefore re- 
doubled their eflForts to have come to an understanding with 
William, and we are even told by Bonrepaus, the agent in England 
of Louis XIV, that some of the English Catholics were secretly in 
communication with William on their own account. '^^ 

^ Memoirs of Thomas, Earl of Aileshury (1890), p. 152. 

2' "Les Catholiques sont ceux qui sont le plus effrayes des menaces du prince 
d'Orange. II en est qui prennent avec lui des mesures secretes." — Dispatch by 
Bonrepaus in 1687, quoted by Mazure, II, 280. 

Towards the end of 1687 Barillon relates that Dykvelt's attempts at moderat- 
ing the feeling between James and William were seconded (but futilely) by the 
"Catholiques moderes, qui, effrayes de I'irritation publique, voyoient surtout 
I'avenir. 'II suffit,' disoient-ils au Roi, *de nous avoir mis a couvert de la rigueur 
des lois. Avec un peu de condescendance, Sa Majeste pent rassurer I'esprit de ses 
sujets, et dissiper les soup(jons dont ils sont prevenus qu'elle aspire a changer leur 
gouvernement. Si le Roi veut guerir leurs craintes, il peut obtenir beaucoup du 
Parlement. II faut surtout eviter des troubles dont on ne prevoit jamais les suites 
dans une nation agitee. II seroit trop perilleux de precipiter le prince d'Orange dans 
des mesures declares, et de lui donner une occasion d'autoriser de son nom, de ses 
droits et de son credit, une revoke qui auroit pour pretexte la defense des lois et de 
la Religion du pays.' Mais le Rois connoit le piege qu'on lui tend, et le danger de 

Appendix D 175 

There is ample material available for expanding this sketch, if 
one so desires. But from what has been said it must be evident 
that whenever James frightened or exasperated English Protes- 
tants, the English Catholics for reasons of their own were also 
frightened and embittered. Terriesi records that this attitude of 
the Catholics was particularly discouraging to the king and that 
he expressed himself feelingly about it.^° As for Father Petres, in- 

ces conseils. II paroit fort resolu de ne pas se relacher. II pretend poursuivre ses 
desseins comme il a fait jusqu' a present." — Quoted by Mazure, II, 255-256. 

The moderate Catholics had been laying this "snare" for some time, at least 
as early as January, 1687; on January 10 the Count d'Avaux wrote as follows: "A 
friend of mine brought me an account, that the Prince of Orange had desired Sir 
William Pen, the famous chief of the sect of quakers in England, when he was some 
months ago in Holland, to replace him on a good footing with the King of England : 
that Pen had endeavoured it since that time, and that matters were very far ad- 
vanced; that Pen had sent advice to the Prince of Orange some time ago, that the 
King of England having debated in a council, in what manner it would be most for 
his service to behave to the Prince of Orange, some of the catholic members of it 
remonstrated to the King of England, that he could not hope to abolish the protes- 
tant religion in England as long as he sat on the throne; that consequently every 
step towards it would only serve to render the catholic religion odious: besides, 
that the hopes which the protestants entertained of having a Prince of their own 
for a sovereign (and one who, the worse he was treated now, would be the more in 
their interests) would render them much more disobedient to the King of England's 
will; that his Britanic Majesty had no better course to take for the advantage 
of the catholic religion, and for preventing the English professors of it from being 
hereafter sacrificed, than to shew a perfect union betwixt him and the Prince of 
Orange, who would be thereby engaged to treat them well when he was the Sover- 
eign of England: that they were therefore of opinion, that the King of England 
should send some person of quality to the Prince of Orange, to assure him of his 
friendship, and of his desire to live in a perfect union with him; and at the same 
time to remit the pension which the Princess of Orange was to have, as presump- 
tive heiress of the crown. The other English members on the contrary declared, 
that the King of England had no measure to pursue that was honourable and safe, 
but to proceed with an unshaken constancy against those of the church of England, 
and much more against the protestant dissenters." — The Negotiations of Count 
d'Avaux (London, 1754-55), IV, 100-102. 

^ "E li Cattolici secolari con il ritirarsi tutti, per paura d'un successore protes- 
tante dal volere havere parte nella condotta della Maesta Sua, di quello che puole 
fabbricare Sua Maesta in un anno. Ne potrei esprimere il discoraggiamenro e la 
passione che ne riceve la Maesta Sua, che espone tutto con tanta vigilanza per 
essi." — Terriesi, 29 April, 1687. 

"L'afFare intrapreso qui Sua Maesta a favore della Religione Cattolica prende 
iiempre aspetto peggiore, mostrandovi ogni giorno piu avversi li Cattolici stessi." — 
Terriesi, 24 November/4 December, 1687. 

176 The Milieu of John Dry den 

dignation and hatred focused on him more and more, until in the 
end he was more hated by the Catholics than by the Protestants.^^ 

Returning then to Dryden, we may, I think, safely assume that 
he was aware of what was going on; and that he was not neutral 
or indifferent to developments which concerned English Catholics 
so vitally. The question is to which side his sympathies leaned, 
whether to James and Sunderland and Petres, or to the moderate 

The important evidence is in The Hind and the Panther, pub- 
lished in April, 1687, and written, according to his own statement, 
during the winter and spring of that year. In the course of this 
theological fable the Panther, or Anglican Church, told a story of 
the swallows and the martin, which alluded to the situation of 
the English Catholics. The swallows were gathered for their au- 
tumn migration to avoid the rigors of the approaching winter. 
They were finally advised by a martin, 

A church-begot and church-believing bird; 

Of little body, but of lofty mind, 

And much a dunce, as Martins are by kind; ^^ 

they were induced by this martin to postpone their departure in- 
asmuch as he had special and prophetic knowledge of easy and 
happy times for them where they were. A period of miraculous 
springtime seemed to verify his prophecies; but suddenly the snow 
and frost and winter winds caught them and they all died of ex- 
posure; except the martins, who hid in a hollow tree, where the 
"rabble of a town" found them and put them to an ignominious 
death; the great Martin was separately executed for treason, and 
his dead body suspended in the air to serve as a weather-vane. 

The important Martin was of course Father Petres; the other 
martins were the Jesuits; the swallows, the English Catholics. 
But what is the significance of this projected migration of the 
swallows .? 

Sir Walter Scott is the only editor of Dryden who has attempted 
any comment on this fable, and his explanation has been repeated 

3^ "Ma credami V. A. S. che detto Padre ha molti inimici e specialmente tra 
li Cattolici." — Terriesi, 28 June 1688. Quoted by Duhr, op. cit., XI, 46, n, 3. 
3- Part III, 463-465. 

Appendix D 177 

by all later editors. Scott believed that the whole episode referred 
to a consultation of the Catholics at the Savoy in the autumn of 
1686. He derived his knowledge of this consultation from Ralph's 
history, which in turn borrowed the story from a pamphlet, A Full 
and Impartial Account of all the Secret Consults, Negotiations, Strata- 
gems y Intriegues of the Romish Party in Ireland, From 1660, to this 
present Year i68q (London, 1690), where the passage in question 
reads as follows: 

About this time there was a general meeting at the Savoy before 
Father Petres, of the chief Roman Catholics of England, in order to 
consult what Methods were fittest to be pursued for the promotion 
of the Catholick Cause. The Papists were universally afraid of the 
King's Incapacity, or else unwillingness of exposing himself to the 
hazard of securing it in his Reign. They were sensible tTiat he ad- 
vanced considerably in Age; besides, they were not ignorant of 
what almost insuperable difficulties they had to contend with, be- 
fore they could bring it to any ripeness: Wherefore upon these 
Considerations (carefully weighing and ballancing every Circum- 
stance) some were for moving the King to procure an Act of Parlia- 
ment for the security of their Estates, and only liberty for Priests 
in their own private Houses, and to be exempted from all Employ- 
ments. This Father Petres Anathematized as Terrestrial, and 
founded upon too anxious a Sollicitude for the preservation of their 
Secular Interests; but if they would pursue his measures, he 
doubted not to see the Holy Church triumphant in England. . . . 
Others of the Papists were for addressing the King to have liberty 
(now that they might do it) to sell their Estates, and that his 
Majesty would intercede with the French King to provide for them 
in his Dominions. After several Debates, it was at last agreed upon 
to lay both Proposals before the King, and some of the number to 
attend his Majesty with them, which was accordingly done; to 
which the King's return was. That he had before their Desires came 
to him, often thought of them, and had (as he believed) provided a 
sure Sanctuary and Retreat /or them in Ireland, if all those endeav- 
ours should be blasted in England, which he had made for their se- 
curity, and of whose success he had not yet reason to despair. This 
Encouragement to the Papists in England, was attended with the 
most zealous Expressions, and Catholick Assurances of his Ardent 
Love to the Holy Church, which he said he had been a Martyr for. 
Thus we see how the Bigotry of this unhappy Prince, transported 
him beyond all bounds, and carry'd him to such Extravagancies in 
Government, as the moderate of the Efiglish Papists themselves 

178 The Milieu of John Dry den 

thought to be extream hazardous and insecure; and would all of 
them have been content with a private exercise of their Religion, 
as thinking it abundantly more safe, rather than endanger the los- 
ing their Estates and Fortunes, (which they almost look'd upon as 
inevitable) if such violent extream courses were followed.^ 

This passage seemed to Scott to settle the matter. "It will 
hardly, I think, be disputed,'* he says, "that the fable of the 
Swallows about to cross the seas refers to this consultation at the 
Savoy." This conclusion, I believe, will have to be modified. Any- 
one reading the Secret Consults must be struck by the remarkable 
information of the author; but his information is hearsay and not 
trustworthy on details. This consultation at the Savoy, of which 
he speaks, must have been a very obscure event; no foreign am- 
bassador mentioned it in his dispatches; no record of it remains 
except in this anti-Jacobite pamphlet. It seems more probable 
that the application of the fable was intended by Dryden to be 
more general, and that it refers, not to one consultation of the 
Catholics at the Savoy in 1686, but to almost every consultation 
by Catholics from the accession of James. It refers to that divi- 
sion of Catholic opinion which, as we have seen, existed as early as 
March, 1685, and became ever more marked as James unfolded his 
policy. Scott says furtjier: "It is a strong instance of Dryden's 
prejudice against priests of all persuasions, that, in the character 
of the Martin, who persuaded the Swallows to postpone the flight, 
he decidedly appears to have designed Petre, the King's confessor 
and prime adviser in State matters, both spiritual and temporal." 
Now it is true that Dryden hated the "priests of all persuasions'* 
both before and after he became a Catholic; and there is no doubt 
that Dryden in the poem betrays a personal dislike of Father 
Petres. But here, again, we may safely affirm that the application 
is broader, and that Dryden was putting into his poem some of the 
indignation against Petres and his influence felt by the moderate 

Fortunately we are able to corroborate this interpretation by a 
passage in one of the few Dryden letters extant. On February 16, 
1687, at the very time when he was working on The Hind and the 

33 Pp. 59-61. 

Appendix D 179 

Panther^ Dryden wrote to Etherege, who was ambassador at Ratis- 
bon. The letter is a series of variations on the theme of idleness, in 
which Etherege claimed preeminence. Dryden incidentally drops 
a hint as to how things were going in England: 

I cannot help hearing that white sticks change their masters, 
and that officers of the army are not immortal in their places, be- 
cause the King finds they will not vote for him in the next sessions. 
[Rochester had recently been dismissed from the Treasury and 
Lord Lumley and Shrewsbury from their colonelcies.] Oh, that 
our Monarch would encourage noble idleness by his own example 
as he of blessed memory did before him, for my mind misgives me 
that he will not much advance his affairs by stirring. I was going 
on, but am glad to be admonished by the paper.^"^ 

After that letter I think there can be no doubt about Dryden's 
position among the moderate Catholics. In its light we may safely 
regard the fable of the swallows as the discreet expression of 
Catholic disapproval of James and his policies, and the tragic end 
of the swallows as symbolizing what the Catholics were expecting 
with deep apprehension. 

In conclusion, then, it does not appear so certain that conver- 
sion to Catholicism was an allurement to Dryden. The Catholics 
were not so happy in the reign of James II. The conversions were 
remarkably few, and this fact James and his advisers laid to the 
fear of legal oppression; no one, they said quite rightly, could turn 
Catholic without exposing his family and fortune to danger. It is 
sometimes assumed that Dryden's fortune was his pension, and 
that this pension would be assured by his conversion. But, in the 
first place, James could not have attached such weight to an office 
of no political consequence; had the Poet Laureate been ex officio 
a member of the House of Commons such an insinuation would 
have had more plausibility. In the second place, by turning 
Catholic Dryden made it absolutely certain that his pension would 
terminate with the death of James. His lot was even more pre- 
carious than that of the Catholics with estates. So that, however 

^ Sybil Rosenfeld, The Letterbook of Sir George Etherege, 1928, 356-357. This 
letter, in manuscript in the British Museum, was Hrst mentioned by Macaulay 
(ed. Sir Charles Firth, p. 965), but was never published until 192S, and was never 
used by any editor or biographer of Dryden. 

i8o The Milieu of John Dry den 

one chooses to state the matter, it appears very uncertain that 
Dryden improved his financial prospects by his conversion. 

But those who are interested to know what Dryden himself 
really thought about this accusation may read it in The Hind and 
the Panther, Part III, 221-228 and 362-388. This Appendix is 
merely a commentary on those lines. 


D'Adda (papal ambassador to Eng- 
land), i66, 178; dispatch quoted, 
169 n. 

Aenesidemus, 18. 

Agrippa, Cornelius, 29. 

Ailesbury, Earl of, on Catholic opposi- 
tion to James II, 172, 177-178. 

Albutt, T. C, 51 n. 

Allen, J. W., 137 n. 

Anglican Church: not fideistic in doc- 
trine, 40; rationalistic tendency nec- 
essary in, 80-83; Anglican fear of 
rationalism, 83; criticism of Catholic 
propaganda during the Restoration, 
88-92; in the reign of James II, 95- 
98; criticism of Simon's Critical His- 
tory, 102-106; Dryden's adherence 
to, in Religio Laid, 121; Dryden on 
Anglican rationalism, 123-125; Dry- 
den on problem of authority in, 125- 


Anti-rationalism: influenced by Greek 
thought, 16, 17-20, by Christian 
thought, 16, 22-27; 3nd Nominalism, 
20-21; and fideism, 29flF.; oflicially 
condemned by Roman Catholic 
Church, 73-75; among English sects, 
89-93; the basis of Dryden's reli- 
gious thought, 1 21-129; relation of, to 
political conservatism, 130-134. 

Appeal from the Country to the City {An), 

Aquinas, Thomas, 74, 75. 

Arcesilaus, 18, 65. 

Aristotle, 16, 70. 

Aubrey, John, 66, 68, 135. 

Augustine, influence on anti-rationalism, 
23, 24, 25, 64. 


Bacon, Francis, 4, 50, 70. 
Bambridge, Thomas, 96-97. 

Barillon (French ambassador to Eng- 
land), dispatches quoted, 166-175. 

Bassett, Joshua, 96-97. 

Baxter, Richard, criticism of materialis- 
tic science, 64-65, 83 n., 92. 

Berington, Jos., on Catholic criticism of 
James II, 166-167. 

Bernus, A., 99 n. 

Bossuet, 82 n., 95 n., loi, 122. 

Boutroux, Emile, 64 n. 

Boyle, Robert, 57, 58, 60, 64, 69, 70, 72; 
on uncertainty of science, 61-62. 

Bramhall, Bishop, 55, 64, 68. 

Brochard, Victor, 20 n. 

Browne, Sir Thomas, 63, 85, 119, 128; 
skepticism of, 40-46; supposed in- 
fluence of Montaigne on, 41 n. 

Buchanan, George, 141, 143. 

Burnet, Gilbert; on Catholic propa- 
ganda in England, 85-86; conversa- 
tion with Cardinal Howard, 173- 

Burtt, E. A., 52 n., 62 n. 

Busson, Henri, 22 n., 29. 

Calvin, 141. 

Canes, J. V.: Fiat Lux, 86-87, 89; his 
defense of skeptical method, 93-94. 

Cappellus, Ludovicus, loo-ioi. 

Care, Henry, 142 n. 

Casaubon, Meric, 59 n., 74 n. 

Catholicism, Roman: fideistic tenden- 
cies in, 24-25; condemns fideism as 
theological error, 73-75; controversy 
with Protestantism, 76-77; apolo- 
getics of in England before 1660, 81- 
85, from 1660 to 1688, 85-9S; criti- 
cism of the Bible, 98-100; Dryden's 
defense of, 122-129; political theory 
of French Ligueurs, 139-140, of the 
Jesuits, 142, 146; bibliography of 
Roman Catholic controversy, 157- 




158; English Catholic opinion in the 

reign of James II, 164-184. 
Charlanne, Louis, ii9n. 
Charron, Pierre, 15, 27, 28, 47, 63, 85, 

154; skepticism of, 35-36, 
Chillingworth, William, 83, 89 n., 93, 

109; Religion of Protestants, 81-82. 
Christie, W. D., 49, 107, 120, 164. 
Cicero, 13, 18, 26, 28, 29, 65, 71 n. 
Clarendon, Earl of, 102. 
Clerc, Jean le: on Catholic apologetics 

in France and England, 98. 
Compton, Bishop, 102; letters to, 159- 

Congreve, William: on Dryden's style, 

1 19-120; on his personality, 152-153. 
Copernicus, 70. 
Cowley, Abraham, 21 n., 55. 
Cranmer, George, 142. 
Cressy, Hugh, 81-82, 83 n. 
Cudworth, Ralph, 55-57, 58 n. 


Danby, Earl of, 148. 

Dante, 4. 

Davenant, Sir William, 55, 136. 

Davila, H. C, 140, 141 n. 

Davis, Walter, 106, 162. 

Deism: Dryden suspected of, 107-109; 
his interest in, 109-115; his criticism 
of, 1 1 5-1 1 7. 

Democritus, 26, 52, 57, 58, 60, 61. 

Denham, Sir John, 11. 

Denzinger, H., 21 n. 

Descartes, 52, 54, 56, 60, 61, 67. 

Dickinson, Henry, 106, 162. 

Diogenes, Laertius, 28. 

Dobree, Bonamy, 3. 

Dodd, Charles, 83, 157. 

Donne, John, 45-46. 

Dorset, Earl of, 6. 

Driden, John, 148. 

Droz, Edouard, 25 n. 

Dryden, John: character of, 5-8; pen- 
sions of, 5, 7, 8; his conception of the 
poet's qualifications, 8-1 1; skepti- 
cism of, 11-15, 70-72, 108-110, 115- 
120, 132-134; and Hobbes, 65-69, 
134-137; and the Royal Society, 70- 

72; supposed Deism of, 107-117; 
and Montaigne, 117-118, 131; ac- 
quaintance of with skeptical thought, 
1 17-120; fideism of, 121-127; intel- 
lectual consistency of, 127-129; 
Toryism of^ 130, 145-150, 152-154; 
Whiggism, his conception of, 138- 
145; attitude of toward the policies 
of James II, 180-184. 
Absalom and Achitophel, 14, 143, 149. 
Aeiieis, dedication to, 117-118, 13 1. 
All for Love, dedication to, 148. 
Amboyna, 5 n. 
Astra a Redux, 132, 140 n. 
Aureng-Zehe, 12, 131 n. 
Conquest of Granada {The), 117. 
Defence of the Epilogue, 116. 
Defence of an Essay of Dramatic Poesy y 

9, 71, 116. 
Discourse concerning the Original and 

Progress of Satire {A), 6. 
Don Sebastian, 116. 
Duke of Guise (The), 7, 140. 
Epistle to the Whigs, 140, 141. 
Essay of Dramatic Poesy {An), 13, 14, 

71, 115- 

Evening's Love {An), 15, 71. 

Fables, Preface to, 118. 

Heroic Stanzas, 132. 

Hind and the Panther (The), 14, 66, 

72> 73, 98, 108, 119 n., 121-129, 

143, 180-184. 
History of the League, 142. 
Indian Emperor {The), 110-112. 
Life of Lucian, 116. 
Medal (The), 143, 149. 
Religio Laid, 4, 14, 15, 41, 47, 66, 71, 

72, 73, 82 n., 103 n., 107, 114, 117, 
119, 121-129, 142, 143. 

Spanish Fryar {The), 5 n. 
Sylvae, Preface to, 14. 
Tyrannic Love, 107, 112-114. 
Vindication of " The Duke of Guise," 

7, H9- 
Duhr, Bernard, 175 n. 
Duke, Richard, 106, 121. 
Duncan, Carson S., 49. 
Duplessis-Mornay, P. de, 141, 144 n. 
Duns Scotus, 20. 



Eliot, T. S., 3. 
Epicurus, 52, 60, 61. 
Etherege, Sir George, 183. 
Evelyn, John, 106, 176 n.; on Simon's 
Critical History^ 104-105. 

P., R., 112 n. 

Fell, Bishop, 104. 

Feret, P., 80, 91 n. 

Fideism: in French thought of sixteenth 
century, 29; and Montaigne, 30-33; 
and Charron, 35-36; and La Mothe 
Le Vayer, 36-37; and Pascal, 37-40; 
Anglican opposition to, 40; and 
Browne, 41-43; declared an intellec- 
tual error by Catholic Church, 73-75; 
appears in Catholic apologetics in 
France, 76-80; in England, 80 fF.; 
two forms of, 122; the basic principle 
in Dryden's poems on religion, 

Figgis, J. N., 146 n. 

Filmer, Sir Robert, 134, 154; political 
ideas of ignored by Dryden, 137-138. 

Fitzherbert, Thomas, 25-26. 

Fox, Charles James, 166 n. 

Gassendi, 52, 65. 

Gee, Edward, 157. 

Gibson, Edmund, 97 n., 158. 

Glanvill, Joseph, 60, 65, 69, 72, 83, 100, 
119; Scepsis scieniifica, 62-64; his 
defense of reason in religion, 89-92. 

Gontery, Jean, 83, 90; new "method" 
of controversy of, 77-78. 

Gray, Thomas, 10. 

Greenslet, Ferris, 63 n. 


Harnack, Adolf von, 25 n. 

Harrington, James, 143, 149 n. 

Herbert, Lord, 142. 

Hervet, Gentian, 27. 

Hills, Henry, 95. 

Hobbes, Thomas, 14, 62, 64, 65, 72, 73, 

83 n., 118 n., 119, 126 n., 154; mate- 
rialistic philosophy of,' 53-60; in- 
fluence of on Dryden, 66-69; political 
absolutism of rejected by Dryden, 

HofFding, H., 51 n. 
Hooker, Richard, 40, 81, 119, 142. 
Horace, 11. 

Hotman, Francois, 141. 
Howard, Philip Thomas: Cardinal 

of Norfolk, 86 n.; on politics of 

James H, 173-174. 
Howard, Sir Robert, 71. 
Huet, Daniel, 27, 154. 
Hunt, Thomas, 108. 
Huygens, Christian, his opinion of 

Hobbes, 57 n., 58 n. 

Johnson, Samuel, 3, 11, 14, 113, 145. 
Jones, Thomas, 95 n., 157. 
Jourdain, Charles, 20 n. 
"Junius Brutus," 141, 144 n. 
Justel, Henri: copies of Simon's Critical 

History sent to England by, 102-104; 

letters of to Bishop Compton, 159- 

Juvenal, 11. 

Kepler, 51. 
Knott, Edward, 81, 84 n., 93. 

LachrymcE Musarum, 133. 

Landor, Walter Savage, 2, 122. 

Lange, F. A., 52 n. 

Lee, Nathaniel, 106, 108. 

Leigh, Richard, 66 n., 118 n. 

L'Estoile, 141 n. 

Lloyd, Claude, 50 n. 

Locke, John, his criticism of Filmer, 

Lubbock, Allen, 3. 
Lucretius, 4, 11, 14, 52, 68-69, 72. 


Mabilleau, L., 52 n. 
Mackenzie, Sir George, 11. 

1 84 


Maimbourg, Louis, 141 n., 142. 

Malebranche, 39-40. 

Malone, Edmond, 5, 49. 

Margival, Henri, 99 n. 

Mezeray, 141 n. 

Milton, John, 4, 10, 67, 133, 143. 

Montaigne, 13, 15, 22 n., 27, 28, 29, 
36, 37> 38, 39, 41-42, 47, 63, 84, 8s, 
92, 122, 128, 154; Apology for Ray- 
mond Sebondy 30-34; supposed in- 
fluence on Browne, 41 n.; Dryden's 
knowledge of, 117-119; political 
conservatism of, 130-132. 

More, Henry, 55, 56. 

Mothe Le Vayer, La, 22 n., 26, 27, 29 n,; 
his defense of Pyrrhonism, 23-24; 
skepticism of, 36-38. 

Moulin, Peter du, 58 n., 59 n. 

Mulgrave, Earl of, 13. 

Murray, R. H., 141 n. 


Newman, John Henry, 75. 

Newton, 52, 70. 

Nicholas d'Autricourt, philosophical 

errors of, 21 n. 
Nicholas of Cusa, 29. 
Nicoll, Allardyce, 164. 
Nicolson, Marjorie H., 55 n. 


"Orasius Tubero"; see La Mothe 

Le Vayer. 
Orrery, Lord, 66-67, 136. 
Osborne, Francis, 41, 43. 
Owen, John, 125 n.; his criticism of 

John Vincent Canes, 86-88. 

Pascal, 22 n., 25, 27, 43, 122, 154; Pyr- 
rhonism of, 37-40; no influence of on 
Dryden, 119. 

Peck, Francis, 157. 

Pendlebury, B. J., 136. 

Perrens, F. T., 36 n. 

Perron, Cardinal du, 'j6y 90, 94. 

Persius, 11. 

Petres, Father, 174-182. 

Pico della Mirandola, Gian-Francesco, 

27, 28-29. 
Placette, J. de la, 84 n. 
Plato, 26, 54, 71 n. 
Plutarch, 114-115. 
Prior, Matthew, 64 n. 
Pyrrho, 16, 18-20, 27, 88 n. 
Pyrrhonism; see Skepticism. 

Rationalism: a danger to the Catholic 
Church, 27, 32-35; of Raymond 
Sebond, 30-31; of Malebranche, 39- 
40; of Anglican Church, 76-77, 80-83; 
Glanvill's defense of, 89-92; Dry- 
den's criticism of, 109, 122-125; 
evidence of, in Dryden before 1682, 

Rebelliau, Alfred, 82 n. 

Renan, Ernst, 22 n. 

Richworth; see Rushworth. 

Rochester, Earl of, 7, 8 n. 

Roscommon, Earl of, 4, 121. 

Royal Society: Dryden imputes skep- 
ticism to, 14-15,71; Dryden's mem- 
bership in, 50 n.; opposition of its 
members to scientific materialism, 53, 
to Hobbes, 57 ff.; its skeptical cri- 
tique of science, 60-64. 

Rushworth, William, 82 n., 100. 

Saintsbury, George, 5, 49 n., 109 n., 

Sanchez, Francis, 27, 30, 65. 
Scott, Sir Walter, 5, 108-109, 121 n., 

126, 180-182. 
Sebond, Raymond, 30-31, 33. 
Sergeaunt, John, 88-89, ^oo, 120. 
Settle, Elkanah, 9-10. 
Sextus Empiricus, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 

26, 29, 31, 33, 47, 63, 84, 85, 92; 

editions and translations of, 27-28. 
Sherlock, William, 97-98. 
Sidney, Sir Philip, 8. 
Simon, Richard, 77, 128, 159-160, 162- 

163; Critical History, 98-107. 
Skepticism: Dryden's adherence to, 11- 

15, 70-72, 108-110, 1 15-120, 132- 



134; complexity of in seventeenth 
century, 16-17; development of in 
antiquity, 17-20; little known in 
Middle Ages, 20-22; influenced by 
Christian thought, 22-27; revival of 
Greek, in Renaissance, 27-30; in 
Montaigne, 30-35; in Charron, 35- 
36; in La Mothe Le Vayer, 36-37; 
in Pascal, 37-40; in Sir Thomas 
Browne, 40-46; in the scepsis scienti- 
fica of the Royal Society, 61-65; 
officially condemned by Catholic 
Church, 73-75; used in Catholic 
apologetics, 76-107; Anglican Church 
opposed to, 80-83, 88-98; the philo- 
sophical basis of Dryden's religious 
poems, 1 21-129; and political con- 
servatism, 130-132. 

Sleidan, 141 n. 

Snow, A. J., 52 n. 

Socrates, 26, 71 n. 

Sorbiere, Samuel, 28, 55 n., 58 n. 

Spanheim, F., 103-104, 162. 

Sprat, Thomas, 49, 60, 61. 

Stanley, Thomas, 27. 

Stephen, Henri, 27, 33. 

Stillingfleet, Edward, 58 n., 84 n,, 88, 

Strowski, Fortunat, 36 n. 

Tate, Nahum, 106. 

Terriesi (Tuscan ambassador to Eng- 
land), dispatches quoted, 165, 166, 
170, 175, 176, 179, 180. 

Texte, Joseph, 41 n. 

Theophile de Viau, 34. 

Tillenus, Daniel, 76-77. 

Tillotson, John, 87, 89, 100, 109; in- 
fluence of on Dryden's style, 120. 

Toryism: and skepticism, 130-132, 134; 

and absolutism of Hobbes, 134-137; 
and Filmer's patriarchal theory, 137- 
138; misinterpretation of, 138-139; 
its theory of divine right of kings, 
145-148; moderation of Dryden's 
Toryism, 148-150. 

TuUoch, John, 83 n. 

Tyrrell, James, 137. 

Vacant et Mangenot {Dictionnaire de 

theologie catholique), 75 n. 
Veil, C. M. de, 103-104, 106, 159, 160. 
Veron, Francois, 78-80, 83, 90, 91, 94. 
Verral, A. W., 109. 
Villeroy, 141 n. 
Villey, Pierre, 29 n., 33, 47 n, 
Voltaire, 52. 


Waller, Edmund, 11, 55. 

Wallis, John, 58. 

Walsh, William, 119 n. 

Ward, Charles E., 8 n. 

Ward, Seth, 58, 64. 

Whewell, W., 52 n. 

Whiggism; and Dissent, 139-143; its 
theory of popular rights asserted by 
the French Ligueurs, 140-141, by the 
French Huguenots, 141-142; com- 
pared to Jesuit political theory, 141- 
142; Commonwealth traditions in, 

Whitby, Daniel, 89. 
White, Thomas, 83-84, 100. 
Whitehead, A. N., 50, 53, 62 n. 
William of Occam, 20. 
Williams, John, 95 n. 
Woodhead, Abraham, 124 n. 
Wordsworth, William, 4. 
Worsley, Edward, 84 n., 94-95. 


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